Noon News 6.12.20: C19 Numbers, IA Hospital Update, Election Bill and Another Fair Cancelled

Jun 12, 2020

Credit Iowa Department of Public Health

COVID-19 has claimed one more life in Woodbury County.  Siouxland District Health says the victim was a middle-aged man.  This brings total number of deaths in the Sioux City metro area to 70.  There are 13 additional cases in Woodbury County for a total of 2,970 positive cases and 39 deaths.  One more death was reported in Dakota County on Thursday. 

The Iowa Department of Public Health’s website showed three more deaths during a 24 hour periods that ended at 10 a.m.   There have been 641 deaths statewide.  There were almost 400 new cases recorded in one day as well.

225 Iowans are in the hospital.  Eight-one are in intensive care with 47 on ventilators.  Sioux City hospitals were treating 59 COVID-19 patients as of yesterday afternoon.  The number of patients locally continues to slowly fall.

The State of Iowa is moving ahead with a $10.3 million purchase to stockpile ventilators for coronavirus patients, even as demand for the breathing machines has dropped and 767 are currently available at hospitals statewide. The head of a distribution company hired to supply ventilators to the state says the decision to buy now is smart because new waves of the virus could still potentially overwhelm hospitals in the coming months. Records show that on March 30, Iowa's executive branch signed a contract to purchase 500 ventilators for $10.3 million. About 2 ½ months later, a spokeswoman says Iowa has only received five of them and expects to receive the rest over the next several months as production ramps up.

Iowa has purchased 1 million face masks through a Republican campaign vendor that will be used by some health care workers despite labels that warn they aren’t intended for medical purposes or hospitals. Iowa’s executive branch last month agreed to buy the reusable cotton masks from Competitive Edge, Inc. for $1.07 apiece. The $1.32 million contract was awarded to bolster the state’s personal protective equipment supplies to stop the spread of the coronavirus. It was Iowa’s fourth emergency purchase order with the Des Moines company owned by David Greenspon, a GOP donor whose firm has long sold promotional items to Republican campaigns.

The Iowa House of Representatives has replaced a controversial elections bill proposed by Senate Republicans with a bipartisan compromise.

Senate Republicans passed a bill that would prevent the secretary of state from automatically sending mail-in ballot request forms to all registered voters. He did that in the June primary election to promote voting by mail during the coronavirus pandemic, and Iowa had record turnout. 

The House scrapped most of the bill and passed a version that would allow the secretary of state to make emergency changes to voting procedures if the legislative council votes to approve those changes. If the council rejects the secretary of state’s proposed changes, they can suggest an alternative or take no action. The bill goes back to the Senate.

The Woodbury County Commissioner of Elections announced on Friday there will be seven vote centers open for a special election on July 7th to fill an opening on the Board of Supervisors. The election was delayed from April 14th because of concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Iowa Legislature has swiftly passed a bill that responds to the demands of protesters marching against racial injustice, including restrictions on officers using choke holds and making it more difficult for problem officers to move to other departments. The bill surfaced Thursday and was debated simultaneously in the House and Senate before passing both chambers unanimously. Gov. Kim Reynolds watched the debate and vote in the House and then watched the Senate finish debate and vote.

False rumors about busloads of rioters allegedly targeting small cities have spread widely on social media in recent days, including in Iowa. Multiple media organizations have debunked the online misinformation.

Despite the lack of evidence for the threats, the posts prompted some Iowa businesses to board up their windows. In Council Bluffs, the city closed three interstate exits and armed civilians patrolled the county courthouse, waiting for rioters who never materialized.

Matt Hildreth has been tracking the rumors nationwide with his group Rural Organizing dot org.

“There's three people that are falling for it the most: business owners, civil, patrol groups or the militias, and police departments. And that scares me. I don't know how…I don't know how those groups are being so easily manipulated.”

Facebook has taken down some accounts responsible for the claims, but the false rumors have continued to circulate. 

Leaders of the Plymouth County Fair voted to cancel this year’s event in Le Mars.  An announcement on Facebook says it was going to be difficult for a small board of 24 volunteers to manage all aspects of the fair and meet all safety requirements.