SPM News: English

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

Associated Press

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley says he will seek an eighth term in 2022.

The 88-year-old announced his reelection plans this morning on Twitter. 

“Hey, there I am running for reelection. It’s the right thing to do for Iowa."

Siouxland Public Media/Mary Hartnett

COVID-19 safety in schools was the focus of a news conference that took place this afternoon in front of the Sioux City Public Museum. The event was organized by several local advocacy groups, including the Siouxland COVID Safety Alliance.

Speakers included a doctor with the Siouxland Community Health Center, concerned teachers, citizens, and the Vice President of the Sioux City Community School Board Monique Scarlett.

“Mask all to save all. Mask up to stand up.”

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State health officials are reporting more than 12 thousand new COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in the past week as the spread of the virus remains high across Iowa.

More than a quarter of the new cases are reported to be in children 17 and under.

And 81 additional Iowans have been confirmed to have died from COVID-19 in the past week. This brings the total death count to 6,482.

The state is reporting 638 Iowans are currently hospitalized with the virus. That’s the high number of hospitalizations reported so far this year.

This week on The Exchange, an author has written a how-to book for parents in dealing with racism and white privilege. We talk with Brian Kiely.  We also talk with author of a New York Times' bestselling memoir about her childhood.  Qian Julie Wang and her family came to the United States from China, and found that life in America was not going be easy.  

The Sioux City Community School District announced today that masks will be required on school buses as of tomorrow. Here is the letter sent out to parents. 

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A 21 year old student at Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids has died of COVID-19. According to the school, Ashley Hudson was studying education and was an aspiring kindergarten teacher.

Siouxland Public Media/Kayla Mayer

The corner of 13th and Pierce is just like any other Sioux City block, but for more than 200 people, the unassuming building is the difference between going to bed hungry or not.  

Outside of a twice-a-month food pantry, the Midtown Family Community Center also promises a free meal to anyone who walks up to its door—just look for the sign.  

The lawyer representing Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds in a federal lawsuit over mandatory mask use in schools has asked the judge to allow a temporary order that has allowed schools to implement mask mandates to expire next week. In its documents made public Monday, the state cited testimonials from mothers of school-age children who make unproven assertions that masks can harm children. The state provided testimonials from three women who said their children have medical issues that makes mask wearing difficult for them.

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.

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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.

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