NEWS 8.17.21: COVID-19 Update for all Siouxland States, Fireworks Ban?, and Boarding School Meeting

Aug 17, 2021

Credit CDC

Cases of COVID-19 are on the rise in Nebraska as the highly contagious delta variant continues to spread, but those reported totals may be undercounting the actual number of cases because the number of tests being performed each day is down significantly compared to last fall.

Infectious disease expert Dr. James Lawler with the University of Nebraska Medical Center said the state isn't testing enough. Data published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows that Nebraska reported more than 16,000 test results one day last November during the fall surge. This summer, the state hasn’t reported more than 2,000 tests a day once since July 27.

Iowa’s COVID-19 hospitalizations continued to rise in the past week, testing some facilities’ capacity, according to a special report by the Iowa Capital Dispatch.

The largest share of hospitalizations, 21%, now involve patients in their 50s, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported. Next highest are people in their 70s (19%), 40s (16%), 80s (11%), 30s (10%), ages 19 to 29 (8%) and children through age 17 (2%).

Many of the hospitalizations have involved older Iowans despite the fact that senior citizens are among the most vaccinated. Children under age 12 are not eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

State records show some variation in vaccination rates by county. For example, in the Des Moines metro, more than 52% of residents in Polk and Dallas counties were fully vaccinated as of Monday. Boone County was at 52.9% and Dubuque County, 53%.

But a block of southeastern counties — Mahaska, Keokuk, Lucas, Monroe, Wapello and Jefferson — have vaccination rates of under 40%. Just 24% of Sioux County residents were fully vaccinated as of Monday, and the rate was even lower in nearby Lyon County.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that 63.1% of Iowa’s hospital beds were in use as of Monday, and 69% of intensive care beds were occupied. That is based on 126 hospitals reporting to a federal system.

Steve Sullivan, spokesman for Mary Greeley Medical Center in Ames, said as of Monday morning, the hospital was running at 78% occupancy. That included a half-filled 14-bed intensive care unit. 

Marcy Peterson, central Iowa spokeswoman for MercyOne, said some of the hospitals are short on space. 

“Some MercyOne hospitals are currently operating on limited capacity,” Peterson said. “In addition to an increased number of COVID-19 cases and spread of the delta variant, hospitals across the country are dealing with traumas, experiencing multiple types of illness, and strains of illness typically only seen in colder months. This demand is coupled with a reduced number of staff to care for patients. 

“These challenges can strain available resources and contribute to delays in care or other complications for patients,” Peterson added.

Nationally, HHS reported, 75% of beds were occupied. Just shy of 11% of hospital beds were in use for COVID-19 cases as of Monday morning.

State records show a general rise in Iowa hospitalizations across age divisions since early July. That comes as cases are up 109% in the past two weeks and now running 747 a day, the New York Times reported. Hospitalizations were up 76% in the past two weeks.

Iowa has recorded 419,238 COVID cases and 6,210 related deaths since the pandemic started.

Nationwide, 799,331 cases were recorded in the past week, up 18.4% and considered high, according to a U.S. Health and Human Services database. The test positivity rate was 9.7%. 

Hospitalizations were up 29.6%, at 70,503.

Coronavirus cases are climbing in South Dakota, but the number of hospitalization from the virus dipped. The Department of Health reported 182 new cases, pushing the tally of people with active infections statewide to 1,355. People hospitalized with the virus dropped to 73 over the weekend. Over the past two weeks,  the rolling average number of daily new cases has tripled. However, more people are getting vaccinated as the delta virus variant threatens to power a fresh surge of cases. Over 2,500 more people received a vaccine, according to the Department of Health. 

Sioux City Mayor Bob Scott indicated Monday that he's prepared to vote on a fireworks ban.

Scott told the Sioux City Journal he is ready for a vote and is waiting for the council to make sure they’re ready to vote. For a full story click here.

Rural America lost more population in the latest census. The trend highlighted an already severe worker shortage in the nation’s farming and ranching regions and drew calls from those industries for immigration reform to help ease the problem. The census data released last week showed that population gains in many rural areas were driven by increases in Hispanic and Latino residents. Many of them come as immigrants to work on farms or in meatpacking plants or to start their own businesses. John Hansen is president of the Nebraska Farmers Union. He wants to see a common-sense approach and says vilifying immigrants just makes that harder to achieve.

Authorities have recorded four fatalities during this year's Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The rally began Aug. 6 and concludes Sunday. The Rapid City Journal reports that state Department of Safety data shows two deaths occurred on Saturday, one when a 66-year-old man lost control of his motorcycle in Sturgis and hit a curb, the other when a driver failed to negotiate a curve on U.S. Highway 14A just east of Sturgis. A 46-year-old female passenger was pronounced dead at the scene. Saturday also saw five crashes involving serious injuries, bringing the total number of injury crashes during the rally to 60.

Data from the South Dakota Highway Patrol shows arrests for drugs and drunken driving are down at this year’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally compared to last year. The Highway Patrol says DUIs are down 14% while misdemeanor drug arrests dropped 34% and felony drug arrests declined by 8%. According to the patrol, citations and warnings are up from last year. Citations climbed 20% and warnings are up 23%. The 81st annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally began Aug. 6 and and concludes Sunday. 

The Sioux City Human Rights Commission is exploring the impact of Indian boarding schools on our community. The event starts tonight at 6 p.m. at the Sioux City Public Museum and is scheduled until 8:30.

News release from the City of Sioux City:

The Impact of Indian Boarding Schools on Our Community

On August 17, 2021, the Sioux City Human Rights Commission will host a learning exchange “The Impact of Indian Boarding Schools on Our Community”. The purpose of this exchange is to share with our community the impact that the boarding school history has had on many Native people in Siouxland.

The event will be held from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Sioux City Public Museum, located at 607 4th Street. This event is free and open to the public and all are welcome to attend. A light dinner and refreshments will be served. Please RSVP by August 15th by calling 279-6985.

NO cameras or filming of participants will be allowed.