NEWS 8.10.21: Addressing Homelessness, Vaccine Push, IA Nursing Home Outbreaks, and More

Aug 10, 2021

A public meeting is scheduled this afternoon to address homelessness in Sioux City. The gathering at City Hall scheduled for 1:15 comes after a protest at last week’s City Council Meeting surrounding the removal of a homeless camp near 4th and Wesley Parkway.

The information gathered will be shared with the Inclusive Sioux City Advisory Committee who will then provide recommendations to the City Council on ways to improve current practices.

Tomorrow morning, local leaders are scheduled to hold a news conference to encourage people 12-years and older to get vaccinated. Joining forces are Sioux City Mayor Bob Scott, the Director of Siouxland District Health, Kevin Grieme and Superintendent of Sioux City Community Schools, Dr. Paul Gausman. You can hear from all three tomorrow at noon during a special live edition of The Exchange on Siouxland Public Media. Scott and Grime will join us live.

The Dakota County Health Department is reaching out to that younger population to get vaccinated. A vaccination clinic will be held this afternoon during an open house at the South Sioux City High School

Credit Dakota County Health Department

from 4 to 6. All three vaccines will be available free of charge. School starts for a majority of students in South Sioux City tomorrow.

Officials with the Sioux City Community School District presented a Return-to-Learn plan at last night’s board meeting. The district plans to enhance cleaning throughout the day and afternoon. They also want to conduct rapid COVID-19 testing for students. However, the state of Iowa passed a law banning mask mandates in schools. Superintendent Gausman encourages people wear masks for those who are not vaccinated. Virtual learning with continue with the new VIBE Academy.

Dr. Gausman is scheduled to talk to reporters this afternoon about the Return-to-Learn plan. Listen for more on Siouxland Public Media this afternoon and tomorrow.

Iowa has tossed out tens of thousands of expired COVID-19 vaccine doses and could toss out hundreds of thousands more if demand for the vaccine continues to lag in the state. A spokesperson with the Iowa Department of Public Health says the state tossed more than 81,000 doses. The department warned last month that the state might have to discard around 217,000 doses by the end of August unless demand picked up. Officials say they’ve seen some more interest in the shots recently, as the cases have surged over the summer. But demand is still far below what it was in April.

More than 50 Iowa nursing homes have experienced a COVID-19 outbreak since the vaccine rollout in December, and the home with the highest number of outbreaks is run by the state itself.

Clark Kauffman of the Iowa Capital Dispatch reports the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown experienced five outbreaks over the course of the pandemic, more than any other long-term care facility in Iowa, according to newly released data from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

It also has racked up one of the highest total number of infections. During the first 17 months of the pandemic, the IVH has been in outbreak status the equivalent of seven months.

The facility, which is home to roughly 400 veterans, now has a vaccine-acceptance rate among the staff of 70%, according to federal officials. The home employs roughly 865 workers.

The Iowa Capital Dispatch also showed one Siouxland nursing home with outbreaks post vaccine: Pleasant View Care Center in Monona County. The Iowa Depart of Public Health showed 54 infections from January 4 through March 1.

The Federal Aviation Administration has proposed civil penalties against Oracle Aviation, LLC, Sioux City’s new partner for a flight school.

The FAA proposes a civil penalty of more than $190,000 against Oracle Aviation, according to the Sioux City Journal.

The general manager at Oracle, told the Sioux City the company complied with the FAA's inquiry into the matter. 

Last month the Sioux City Council voted to move forward with the Oracle Aviation Center to create a flight school in partnership with Morningside University.

Former Gov. Kay Orr has criticized a statement released by six University of Nebraska faculty and staff members that takes issue with a resolution to bar the teaching of critical race theory from university curriculum. The resolution was introduced by University of Nebraska Regent and Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Pillen. It drew objections from the faculty and staff members, collectively known as the Journey for Anti-Racism and Racial Equality. The group contended that the resolution stifles academic discussion and debate while purporting to do the opposite. Orr leveled her remarks at University of Nebraska Chancellor Ronnie Green, who did not sign the faculty and staff statement but has spoken out against Pillen’s resolution.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A 26-year-old supporter of former President Donald Trump has been sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for shooting into a car carrying Black girls after an Iowa Trump rally, injuring a teenager. Michael McKinney, of St. Charles, was sentenced Monday for the Dec. 6 shooting after a rally in Des Moines. Authorities say the girl was in a car carrying teenagers who were exchanging insults with rally supporters, who were mostly white. McKinney fired into the teenagers' car after it backed up and struck a pickup truck belonging to a rally supporter. McKinney pleaded guilty in June to intimidation with a dangerous weapon and willful injury.

A year to the day after last August’s powerful derecho, city officials in Cedar Rapids say the hard-hit community is “coming back strong”.

The storm devastated the city, destroying homes and businesses and knocking out 65 percent of the tree canopy.

Residents and elected officials gathered in Bever Park today to commemorate the anniversary. Here’s Mayor Brad Hart.

“It’s really that spirit of resilience and perseverance and kindness that we’re here today to celebrate. The storm was horrific and we need to understand the damage it did. But we need to celebrate this community and how many people stood up and continue to stand up to help others.”

A year after the storm, service providers say some residents are still living in unsafe conditions. The high cost of repairs and a shortage of contractors has delayed rebuilding efforts.

A group of animal rights and public interest groups filed a lawsuit Tuesday to challenge the latest Iowa law designed to criminalize investigations into animal treatment on livestock farms. The lawsuit, filed in federal court, alleges violations of First Amendment free speech rights and asks the court to declare the law unconstitutional and issue an order preventing officials from enforcing it. It is the third attempt by Republican lawmakers to outlaw farm investigations. It was signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds in June. Lawmakers say it's needed to protect farmers from harassment and deter intrusions that threaten the safety of the state’s multibillion-dollar agriculture industry. Laws passed in 2012 and 2019 are not enforced by court order after their constitutionality was challenged.

Nebraska's largest public school district will require students to wear masks indoors when they return to classrooms next week. The Omaha Public Schools board voted 8-1 Monday to require all people to wear masks indoors at school, effective Tuesday. The Omaha World-Herald reports that the resolution made note of recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommending universal masking for all teachers staff, students and visitors to K-12 schools in an effort to fight the growing spread of COVID-19 cases. The Omaha district joins a growing number of Nebraska school districts requiring face mask when school starts this fall.  

Teachers, educators and other South Dakota citizens charged with crafting new state social studies standards say Gov. Kristi Noem’s administration deleted many elements intended to bolster students’ understanding of Native American history and culture from their draft.

Members of the working group said Tuesday they were caught by surprise when the department released the new document last week. They say changes made to the draft they submitted in late July gave it a political edge they had tried to avoid, instead aligning with the Republican governor’s rhetoric on what she calls patriotic education. The Department of Education has not responded to a request for comment.

News release from MercyOne. (Last month MercyOne announced employees in Sioux City would require vaccinations):

Our commitment to safety means we do everything we can to protect people. That’s why MercyOne will require all colleagues and medical staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in all MercyOne health care ministries.

“As a faith-based health ministry, we have pledged to protect the most vulnerable. Our patients and their families expect us to provide a safe environment for their care, and that includes being vaccinated,” said MercyOne CEO Bob Ritz.

MercyOne joins more than 100 hospitals and health systems in the U.S. requiring employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. With case counts rising amid the spread of the Delta variant, more than 50 health care professional societies and organizations have called for all health care workers to be vaccinated, including the American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, Association of American Medical Colleges and National Association for Home Care and Hospice.

Individuals who are not able to be vaccinated for strongly held religious beliefs or medical reasons will be required to apply for an exemption.

“The safety of our patients, residents, colleagues, physicians and communities is a top priority for us,” said MercyOne Chief Medical Executive Dr. Hijinio Carreon. “With more than 350 million doses administered in the United States, we know the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and the single most effective tool in slowing, and even stopping, the spread of virus and saving lives.”

We encourage everyone who is eligible and able to get vaccinated. Vaccines are now widely available in many convenient locations. To find a location near you, visit MercyOne.org/covid19vaccine.

*News content includes stories from Siouxland Public Media News partners: Iowa Capital Dispatch, Sioux City Journal and Associated Press.