NEWS 8.26.21: Nebraska Hospital Staffing Emergency, Ravnsborg Sentenced, and Prison Murders Update

Aug 26, 2021

Credit Governor Pete Ricketts/Facebook

Nebraska governor Pete Ricketts enacted a hospital staffing emergency in the state. Ricketts says the problem does come from a list of issues: staff shortages, COVID-19 cases, and other illness, including RSV.

Starting on Monday, the state will limit some elective surgeries and waive licensing to try and boost the number of heath care workers. Some facilities already paused elective surgeries to preserve hospital capacity.

However, Ricketts says he is still against mandating masks in schools or enforcing vaccine passports.

“Kids are at low risk of serious illness from COVID-19. They are at the same risk as the flu and we don’t mask up kids for the regular flu.”

Ricketts says the COVID-19 vaccine is still the best tool to fight COVID-19.

“Data from the state of Nebraska shows the vaccine works to reduce the severity of illness or even death.”

Ricketts told news reporters on Thursday he does not have plans to reinstate a COVID State of Emergency or release daily data surrounding the disease and he does not believe hospital staff should be required to get vaccinated.

There are just over 1,000 hospital beds available across the state, which means 75% are filled, including 337 COVID-19 hospitalizations (11%). In November, there were almost 1,000 patients.

Ricketts says Nebraska is number three in the country for survival rate of COVID-19 patients and has done a good job getting people 65 years and older vaccinated.

The number of COVID patients in Iowa hospitals has increased 20 percent in the past week, to nearly 500 last night.

The number of Covid patients in Iowa hospitals has increased 20 percent in the past week, to nearly 500 last night.

Radio Iowa reports for the first time since January, an average of more than a thousand Iowans tested positive for Covid each day this past week.

Earlier this summer, the Iowa Department of Public Health began updating the state’s coronavirus website just once a week.

The data posted around midnight indicated 133 Covid positive patients were in an Iowa hospital’s ICU and state officials say 86% of them hadn’t been vaccinated.

The pace of vaccinations in Iowa has dipped in the past week after climbing a bit earlier this month. The state’s coronavirus website shows 48.6% of Iowa residents are fully vaccinated.

The Iowa Department of Public Health has confirmed 42 Iowans died of COVID in the past four weeks — between July 24 and this past Sunday, August 22.

A weekly update provided by Siouxland District Health, showed 18 hospitalizations at Sioux City’s two hospitals in one week. Local health officials say 80% of the patients were not vaccinated.

A judge has ordered no jail time for South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg in a crash that killed a pedestrian last year, instead fining him $500 on each of two misdemeanor counts.

Ravnsborg was ordered to pay assorted court costs after the Republican entered no-contest pleas today. 

An inmate who confessed in court to using a hammer to kill a nurse and correctional officer during an escape attempt at an Iowa prison has been sentenced to life in prison.

Thomas Woodard Jr. was sentenced Thursday after pleading guilty earlier this month to two counts of first-degree murder, as well as to kidnapping and attempted murder counts.

A judge has ordered no jail time for South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg in a crash that killed a pedestrian last year, instead fining him $500 on each of two misdemeanor counts.

Ravnsborg, a native of Cherokee, was ordered to pay assorted court costs after the Republican entered no-contest pleas Thursday in the crash that killed Joseph Boever last September.

Boever’s family members complained bitterly before Ravnsborg was sentenced that the law didn’t provide stiff enough punishment for the attorney general, whom they accused of arrogance ever since the crash that killed Boever.

Ravnsborg didn’t attend the hearing.  

An inmate who confessed in court to using a hammer to kill a nurse and correctional officer during an escape attempt at an Iowa prison has been sentenced to life in prison.

Thomas Woodard Jr. was sentenced Thursday after pleading guilty earlier this month to two counts of first-degree murder, as well as to kidnapping and attempted murder counts.

Prosecutors say Woodard and his co-defendant, 29-year-old Michael Dutcher, carried out the March 23 hammer attacks at Anamosa State Penitentiary on 50-year-old nurse Lorena Schulte and 46-year-old correctional officer Robert McFarland.

Woodard also admitted to attacking an inmate who tried to stop the attack and briefly holding another female employee as a hostage.

The number of COVID patients in Iowa hospitals has increased 20 percent in the past week, to nearly 500 last night.

University of Nebraska Regent Jack Stark is facing a felony charge of witness tampering, with prosecutors accusing Stark of asking a former Husker football player not to testify in support of a former Omaha gym owner who was later convicted of rape.

74-year-old Stark, an Omaha sports psychologist who was elected regent last year, was arrested Wednesday and appeared before a judge before being released on his own recognizance.

The Nebraska Attorney General's Office, which is prosecuting the case, alleges that Stark contacted former Husker fullback Willie Miller last year to ask him not to testify in support of his friend, Douglas Anders. Anders was convicted in February of first-degree sexual assault of a teenage girl.

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is suspending operations at a fraternity house during an investigation into an alleged sexual assault. Chancellor Ronnie Green said Wednesday that Phi Gamma Delta — better known as Fiji — will be closed and all operations stopped during the investigation. The announcement came after about 1,000 people surrounded the house Tuesday night to protest the alleged assault. Green said Fiji was currently on probation for previous violations of university policy. University police chief Hassan Ramzah said the assault was reported early Tuesday and the investigation is continuing. 

The former finance director of the Nebraska State Fair has pleaded no contest to three counts of felony theft of money from the fair. Thirty-year-old Patrick Kopke entered the plea Tuesday and faces up to 20 years in prison on each charge when he is sentenced in October. Kopke was charged after a state audit showed a company he created had been paid nearly $150,000 from state funds but did not perform any work for the fair. The auditors said Kopke used bank accounts from the company to pay more than $100,000 in personal expenses.