PM News 6.12.20: Local Health Update, Jail Testing, Police Reform and More

Jun 12, 2020

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signs bipartisan legislation Friday, June 12, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa banning most police chokeholds and addressing officer misconduct. The signing took place one week after a group of Democratic lawmakers and activists stood in a similar spot, outlining demands to address police violence following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Credit Associated Press

Local Health officials say the number of new cases of COVID-19 in Woodbury County continue to fall but there is concern about a rise in other spots of northwest Iowa.  There were 13 additional cases in Woodbury County for a total of almost 3,000. 

The Iowa coronavirus website showed 120 cases in Dickinson County, an increase of 50 case in two days.  Buena Vista County reports almost 1,500 cases for the highest infection rate per capita.

The Deputy Director of Siouxland District Health, Tyler Brock, says people still need to protect their health as more of the state reopens.  This is the first day restaurants and bars can operate at 100% capacity with restrictions.

Brock says there is plenty of testing available, he sees a decrease in test requests.

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. 

Brock made his comments during a news conference this afternoon where the city of Sioux City announced the opening of recreation facilities. People can use playgrounds and some basketball courts starting next Friday.  The IBP Ice Center will open on Monday for reservations only, the Grandview Park Bandshell on June 21. Pools will open for swim lessons, lap swim and fitness classes on June 22.  City leaders are still deciding if pools will reopen to the public in July.  They have to weigh limitations because of social distancing and cost. There is a full list of re-openings on the Siouxland Public Media Facebook page.

The Woodbury County Sheriff’s office says it concluded testing of all jail inmates for COVID-19.  Out of 149 inmates, eleven came back positive.  The inmates have been separated from the rest of the population to ensure the safety of staff and other inmates.  The first positive results were discovered when 10 inmates were tested before transitioning into the state prison system last weekend.  Three tested positive and were asymptomatic.  To try and reduce infection, the jail did reduce the number of people incarcerated. 

Governor Kim Reynolds has signed into law a police reform bill that Iowa lawmakers unanimously passed on Thursday.

Reynolds signed the bill as activists and black lawmakers chanted, held their fists high and held a Black Power poster in the air. 

The law allows the attorney general to prosecute police, bans chokeholds in most cases, prevents the re-hiring of officers with a record of misconduct, and requires annual bias prevention training.

Reynolds says George Floyd’s killing by a police officer reinforced the fact that racial injustice persists.  

 “To the thousands of Iowans who have taken to the streets calling for reforms to address inequities faced by people of color in our state, I want you to know this is not the end of our work. This is just the beginning.”

Activists celebrated after the bill signing and are still trying to pressure Reynolds to sign an executive order to restore felon voting rights.

Earlier in the day Black Lives Matter activists met with Governor Reynolds today. They say she agreed to work on language for an executive order to restore felon voting rights, and they’ll meet again on Monday.

Reynolds has been pushing for a constitutional amendment to restore felon voting rights. It’s a process that takes several years, and the Senate hasn’t passed the proposal yet.

Black Lives Matter activist Jassma’ray was in the meeting. She says she agrees there needs to be a constitutional amendment to make felon voting rights restoration permanent.

“But also, action that needs to be taken now which is the executive order. We basically put a lot of pressure on her. That she needs to—we kept reiterating the fact that this needs to happen now. There’s an election coming up. People need to be able to vote.”

Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz and three of his players say the Iowa football team took a big step toward improving its lines of communication in the week since the program was hit with allegations of systemic racism.

Players returned to campus to begin voluntary workouts and spent two days with coaches voicing concerns about the program’s culture.

Ferentz says the meetings were raw and emotional and that players did most of the talking. 

Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz speaks during a news conference, Friday, June 12, 2020, in Iowa City, Iowa. The Iowa football team took a big step toward improving its lines of communication in the week since the program was hit with allegations of systemic racism, Ferentz and three of his players said Friday.
Credit Associated Press

Former players accused strength coach Chris Doyle of bullying and making racist comments. He remains on paid administrative leave.

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.

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.