SPM News: English

The latest news in Siouxland, Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota.

The number of Iowans hospitalized for COVID-19 in Iowa remains above 500, and one expert says it’s straining the state’s hospital system.

Theresa Brennan of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics says the hospital’s ICU is currently dealing with an influx of COVID patients. That’s on top of dealing with a higher than average number of non-COVID patients. Brennan says UIHC is receiving requests for transfers from hospitals across the state -- and country. She says hospitals are facing staff shortages as some are missing work after testing positive for COVID and others are leaving the field from mental burnout.

This week on The Exchange, we review some of Siouxland's most important events.

One was the rejection of a mask mandate by the Sioux City School Board. The other event was the groundbreaking on the new Woodbury County Law Enforcement Center.  

We also look forward to changes coming for cities and higher education as we, hopefully, emerge from the coronavirus pandemic in the next few years. And, we get a up-close look at food insecurity in Siouxland.

The Iowa Department of Public Health reported Wednesday 11,588 new positive cases in the past seven days.

The number of new COVID-19 infections remains on the rise in Iowa as state health officials are reporting more than 11 thousand new cases have been confirmed in the past week. Nearly 30 percent of the new cases are reported to be in children 17 and under.The state is reporting 578 Iowans are currently hospitalized with the virus. That’s the same number as last week. And 78 percent of those hospitalized are not fully vaccinated. About 87% of ICU patients are not fully vaccinated. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 62 percent of Iowans 12 and older are fully vaccinated. And all 99 of Iowa’s counties have high levels of community spread.

Hospital capacity remains a concern as the number of virus cases continues to rise across Nebraska.

In Lincoln, Bryan Health officials said their two hospitals are operating “at the breaking point” with large numbers of COVID-19 patients putting stress on the system.

Sioux City Community Schools

The Sioux City Community Schools District’s new virtual learning academy the “Vibe Academy” uses the slogan “Learning Without Limits”. However, one local advocate says some students with disabilities are left out of equation. 

During Wednesday's special school board meeting surrounding masks in the Sioux City Community School District, some citizens talked about a virtual option for parents to send their children. However, as Siouxland Public Media’s Sheila Brummer reports that option is not available to all.

Sioux City Community Schools

The Sioux City Community School District will not bring back a mask mandate after an emergency session on Wednesday, September 15.  Siouxland Public’s Sheila Brummer reports.

Even from the start, contention filled the air of the Sioux City Community School District’s headquarters Wednesday afternoon for a special board meeting, mainly from those who did not want their children to wear masks in school.

More than 20 concerned citizens on both sides of the issue shared their viewpoint by phone and in person.

Siouxland Public Media/Sheila Brummer

No mask mandate for the Sioux City Community School District after the board did not have a consensus of support to hold a vote. Concerns were raised about disrespect from citizens who attended today's meeting

Prior to the meeting, the local teacher’s union president said there wasn’t time to meet with members to issue a stance on masks. Lesa Banks says there are educators on both sides of the debate. The state teachers' union hopes school leaders will focus on science and decide what to do next. 

Siouxland Public Media/Sheila Brummer

On Wednesday, September 15th the city of Sioux City launches a new Community Speak-Out series to serve as a citizen listening session for city departments.

The first one starts at noon at the Sioux City Public Museum with a focus on diversity and inclusion.

Siouxland Public Media’s Mary Hartnett talked to Sioux City’s new Inclusion Liaison Semehar Ghebrekidan about this open dialogue and her thoughts on the current atmosphere of the community.

Woodbury County

A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon for the new Woodbury County Law Enforcement Center. The new facility is located on 28th street just off of Highway 75.

Controversy surrounds some of the funding for the facility. In March of last year, voters approved a bond issue of more than $50 million for the project. The Woodbury County Law Enforcement Authority now puts the total price tag at about $65 million.

The County Board of Supervisors allocated $15.6 million in Federal COVID-19 relief money to cover the higher costs.

https://isea.org

Just hours after a federal judge blocked Iowa’s law banning mask mandates, the Sioux City Community School Board agreed vote on the issue. It will take place tomorrow at 3 p.m., instead of noon.

Board vice-president Monique Scarlett put forth the motion, saying the mask mandate could help stop the spread of the very contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus.

School Superintendent Paul Gausman agreed that it was time to bring back face coverings, but some students and staff are likely to be exempt for health reasons.

CDC

A federal judge has ordered the state of Iowa to immediately halt enforcement of a law passed in May that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Judge Robert Pratt said in an order signed Monday that the law substantially increases the risk of several children with health conditions of contracting COVID-19. Several parents with children that have various medical conditions sued the state.

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Covid 19 cases and vaccinations are slowly rising in Woodbury County. As of facebook posting on Wednesday, Siouxland District Health said for the week beginning August 30th, there were 287 new cases of COVID-19 in Woodbury County, and a positivity rate of 13.2 percent. There were 17 people hospitalized in Siouxland due to covid 19 and the vaccination rate is at 43.4 percent. 

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The US Department of the Treasury will meet with Woodbury County residents online on Monday, Sept. 13, to discuss how federal funding guidelines could impact the proposed use of federal coronavirus funds. Some Woodbury County residents say they want to highlight possible issues with how the Board of Supervisors allocates funding to leadership in the Office of Recovery Programs.That’s after receiving over 250 letters from local residents about funding related to the American Recovery Program.  Several of them registered their concerns with how the money is being used to build the new law enforcement center. Many have also spoken out at both Sioux City Council and Woodbury County Supervisor meetings. Reaffirmed spending guidelines are expected to come out of the US Treasury as early as next week. Residents say they are concerned that these funds should be spent on projects and programs more closely connected to the Covid pandemic. There are also concerns that county residents will have to pay back the federal funds if the funds are misused. 

This week on The Exchange, we hear the details of a new lawsuit filed against the state of Iowa over it’s ban on mask mandates in public schools.  

Also, how to wean yourself off your electronic devices, because you may not realize you are addicted.

And we talk with some of the artists from last weekend’s ArtSplash event, and also with the one of co-founders of the Sioux City International Film Festival that is coming up in October.

We also talk with the artist who painted a new mural on West 7th Street in Sioux City.

Sioux City has been awarded for its response to housing needs during the coronavirus. The City of Sioux City Neighborhood Services Division has been selected as the 2021 COVID-19 Housing Response award winner by the Iowa Finance Authority.  Staff were presented with the award today at the Housing Iowa Conference in Cedar Rapids.  

The  City was awarded for the new Neighborhood Services Division Outreach Office, as well as the emergency shelter program which provided temporary housing in hotels to those experiencing homelessness. The award recognizes "an initiative that was implemented in immediate response to needs created due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 Developers will be able to build 36,450 new housing units to help address Iowa's growing shortage. That's because Iowa is allocating $100 million of its federal coronavirus relief funding to build new homes in the state.  Gov. Kim Reynolds announced that today at the housing conference. The money comes from The American Rescue Plan Act funding. That is being added to more than 230 million dollars the Iowa Legislature allocated over five years to Iowa's tax credit programs.The 100 million dollars will be split among several existing programs, plus a new pilot program to improve housing access for minority groups. 

 

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As the rate of new COVID-19 infections remains high in Iowa, the state's top health official says they are working on more rapid testing options. 

As the spread of the virus remains high across the state, demand for COVID-19 testing has skyrocketed.

Interim state Department of Public Health Director Kelly Garcia says testing is widely available across the state. But the department is seeing some issues for those who need rapid testing.

 

Former President Donald Trump will hold a rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds on Oct. 9, a source familiar with his plans confirmed to the Des Moines Register. In an August radio interview, Trump said that he planned to return to Iowa for a rally, but he did not announce any further details at the time.

The former president's return to the first-in-the-nation caucus state is likely to stoke speculation about whether he'll again seek the White House in 2024. Trump has left the door open to another campaign.

His potential Republican rivals aren't waiting for Trump to announce his intentions. Many possible presidential contenders have already begun visiting Iowa to hold fundraisers for local candidates and attend party dinners.

Des Moines Register/Mediacom, Iowa Poll in June showed Iowans were evenly split on Trump, with 49% saying they had a favorable view of him and 49% saying they had an unfavorable view.

A pilot and his passenger emerged unharmed after their small plane crashed Monday near Kingsley. The Plymouth County Sheriff' says the crash happened at about 3:12 p.m., approximately five miles east of Kingsley and near Plymouth County Road C-66 and Tamarack Avenue. The plane was upside down inside a cornfield. The pilot and passenger were the only two people on board. Their names have not been released.

The crash site has been secured pending an FAA investigation. South Dakota's governor says the national guard troops deployed to the border with Mexico will be on the way home later this month. Kristi Noem thanked the guard member in a Facebook post.  The guard troops encountered more than 6,00 individuals crossing the border.

The ACLU of Iowa and disability rights groups are suing state officials in federal court to overturn a statewide ban on school mask mandates.

ACLU attorney Susan Mizner  says many disabled students have chronic conditions that make the coronavirus a severe health threat. But she says they still have the right to learn in-person, and to ask classmates to wear masks as the CDC recommends.

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The surge in coronavirus cases in Iowa and an increasing number of critically ill patients  has raised concerns about having enough beds, and health care providers. While Iowa’s hospitals are not as full as they were this past fall, the latest spike has officials worried. On Wednesday, UIHC reported 41 COVID-19 admissions, including 36 adult patients and five pediatric patients.

State officials say they’ll start updating Iowa’s coronavirus data website three times a week, instead of once a week.

The Iowa Department of Public Health changed from daily to weekly reporting in early July, and officials say the move followed other states in the region and the CDC’s data reporting at the time. 

Director Kelly Garcia says the situation has “evolved,” and she’s hearing that Iowans want to know more. 

The Iowa Department of Public is updating the coronavirus.iowa.gov website so Iowans can keep up to date on vaccination rates, case positivity rates and hospitalizations.

This week on The Exchange, we focus on issues that affect Native Americans in Siouxland.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts today said the state is working to manage hospital staffing issues, including again setting up a transfer center so that patients could be moved based on hospital availability, according to WOW TV. 

Last week, the governor declared a staffing emergency for Nebraska hospitals.  Nebraska officials said the state was partnering with Nomi Health to help patients in need of a transfer to a hospital in the state. That service is expected to be operational on Saturday. 

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The Iowa Department of Public Health today announced new COVID-19 Data for the past week. IDPH reported 8,907 additional positive COVID-19 tests, for a total of 441,889 positive tests since the start of the pandemic. 

The health department reported 39 additional COVID-19 deaths, totaling 6,307 since the pandemic began. 

The state’s 14-day positivity rate is up from 8.2% to 8.6% in the last 7 days, and the 7-day rate is up from 8.3% to 8.6%.

Siouxland Public Media/Sheila Brummer

This summer, the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska held an outreach event for young people on the reservation. Part of this exploration included art.    

Siouxland Public Media’s Sheila Brummer paints the picture of this creative cultural history lesson.

“Can I start?”      

 “Sure!”

More than a dozen youngsters with brushes in hand help bring a mural to life, including 15-year-old Traylin Sheridan of Rosalie, Nebraska. She and others work to cover a wall once gilded with graffiti.

  

change.org

A petition drive condemning Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and lawmakers for passing a law banning mask mandates is gaining traction. Siouxland Public Media talked to the organizer, who says the safety of students and families is at risk.

“It started out with us just wanting to make a statement.”

CDC

The number of COVID-19 cases in Nebraska has increased in each of the past ten weeks, and the total nearly doubled over the past two weeks as the highly contagious delta variant of the virus continues to spread.

Nebraska reported around 5,000 new cases last week to the CDC.

That’s up from the previous week and nearly double the cases recorded the week before.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Nebraska has risen over the past two weeks from 190 new cases per day on Aug. 15 to more than 715 new cases per day on Sunday.

CDC

The Education Department says it’s investigating five Republican-led states that have banned mask requirements in schools, saying the policies could amount to discrimination against students with disabilities or health conditions. The department’s office for civil rights sent letters to education chiefs in Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah. Those states have barred schools from requiring masks among students and staff, a move that the department says could prevent some students from safely attending school.

The early 19th century camp site of the Lewis and Clark Expedition was artfully recreated last weekend as part of the annual Sergeant Floyd Memorial Encampment outside of the Sergeant Floyd River Museum. Floyd died in what is now Sioux City; the only man to die on the trip.

Siouxland Public Media’s Mary Hartnett visited the site of the recreated camp and spoke with the Corps of Discovery’s blacksmith.

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