NEWS 9.29.21: C19 Updates, Rapid Tests, IA FBI Report, Ethanol Snub?, and More

Sep 28, 2021

Credit CDC

The number of COVID-19 infections remains on the rise in Iowa. That’s as cases across the country as a whole are on the decline.

According to the New York Times, the average rate of new cases nationwide has decreased by 33 percent in the past 14 days.

But in Iowa that 14-day rate has increased by 19 percent.

Dan Diekema is an infectious disease specialist at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. He says the current spread has been driven by the reopening of schools without mask requirements where the majority of kids aren’t eligible to be vaccinated.

"You have a very vulnerable population, a lot of transmission that can happen and then that transmission is carried over into the community. When you have such a large percentage of your population that's unvaccinated."

According to the Centers for Disease Control, all 99 of Iowa’s counties have high rates of community transmission.

The growth in the number of new COVID-19 cases in Nebraska has somewhat slowed down this past week, but the number of people hospitalized virus remains high.

Almost 4,700 new cases were reported in Nebraska in the week that ended Thursday, a slight decrease from two weeks earlier.

The number of people hospitalized with the virus in Nebraska hit 434 on Monday.

That number has generally remained above 400 since mid-September. However, hospitalizations remain well below last November’s peak of 987, but hospital capacity is still strained.

The Sioux City Community School Board approved buying $40,000 in rapid COVID-19 tests.

Funeral relief money will play for 7,700 of them at a cost of $5 each.

Parents will have to provide written and verbal permission for the tests to be conducted at school.

Previously a school nurse expressed concern to the Sioux City Journal about testing, including limited training and protocols.

On Monday, a federal judge extending a restraining order for two weeks that prohibits Iowa officials from enforcing a law that bans school districts from enacting mask mandates.

A quarter of Iowa public school students are in districts that have experienced significant outbreaks this year.

Sioux City is one of a few major districts across the state without a mask mandate.

Faculty at Iowa public universities are demanding the right to require masks in their classrooms regardless of state law or policies against them. A biology professor at UNI saying faculty should be allowed to manage their classrooms, he imposed a mandate for student and lowers their lab grades if they refuse to comply.

Northern Iowa, the University of Iowa and Iowa State University sent petitions last month to the state Board of Regents signed by hundreds of faculty asking for the ability to require masks and vaccines.

A judge has refused to block Creighton University’s requirement that all students get vaccinated against COVID-19 despite the objections of a handful of students who said getting the shots would violate their religious beliefs against abortion. The Catholic university in Omaha mandated that all students get vaccinated in August. The lawsuit says the students object because vaccines were developed or tested using cells from aborted fetuses. The Vatican has declared that such vaccines are morally acceptable when others aren’t available. The students’ attorney didn’t immediately respond to questions on Monday, so it wasn’t immediately clear if they will continue to press the lawsuit.

Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen has tested positive for the coronavirus on Sunday, one day before he was scheduled to announce his re-election bid.

A spokeswoman says Evnen has been been fully vaccinated against the virus, and his symptoms are not severe. She says Evnen is working from his home office. Evnen, a Republican, was supposed to hold an in-person campaign event on Monday but abruptly canceled it, citing unforeseen circumstances. His campaign made the announcement in an email. Evnen was first elected in 2018.

The average daily number of Nebraskans hospitalized with COVID-19 over the last week was about 420, up 5% from an average of 400 the previous week.

Iowa’s homicide rate hit a record high in 2020, according to a report from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

There were 111 homicide offenses in Iowa in 2020, according to annual FBI data.

The Iowa Capital Dispatch reports that’s a nearly 60% increase from 2019, when Iowa recorded 70 murders. It’s also the largest number of Iowa homicides since the FBI began tracking the statistic in 1979.

Sioux City recorded six murders or manslaughter cases in 2020, up from two in 2019. All violent crime increased by 26%.

When other violent crimes like rape, robbery and aggravated assault were included in the data, 2020 was the second most violent year in Iowa’s recent history with an increase of 5% overall.

While violent offenses increased in 2020, property crimes fell for the 18th consecutive year.

The FBI’s report does not provide analysis or information about why certain crimes become more or less common over time.

Sioux City Police trying to uncover the identity of a man who jumped into the Missouri River after a pursuit late last tonight.

Officer in South Sioux tried to stop a vehicle for a minor traffic violation just after 10 p.m. The driver stopped in a construction area on  Larson Park Road off of Floyd Boulevard and went into the water.

An extensive search happened overnight using boats and drone, however, the suspect was not found.

A leaked proposal for the federal biofuels mandate is getting criticism from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. 

Reuters reported an EPA document that shows the Biden administration may decrease the requirements for how much renewable fuels - like ethanol - oil refiners have to blend into the nation’s fuel supply.

Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley says that would be a blow to biofuels production in Iowa, which is the top ethanol producer in the country.

“In short, if you mess with the RFS, you mess with the livelihood of Iowans and 87,000 family farmers.”

A group of Democratic lawmakers including Iowa Congresswoman Cindy Axne is calling on President Biden to hold back from decreasing oil refiners' biofuel requirements.

The EPA hasn’t released official numbers for this year.

Harvest is underway and the USDA reports spotty rain across Iowa impacted the ability of some to get into the field last week.

The weekly crop report showed 9% of corn was harvested last week, and 18% of soybeans. That is four days ahead of the five-year average.