SPM News: English

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

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After roughly a half-year of precipitous decline, new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have been increasing sharply over the past two months, according to state public health data.

The 214 Iowans hospitalized with COVID is roughly quadruple what it was two months ago, and the highest since April. And the rolling, two-week average of daily new cases is seven times higher than it was just more than six weeks ago. That state data is now updated only once per week, instead of multiple times daily, under a recent change made by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds.

Siouxland Public Media/Sheila Brummer

On Tuesday, August 10, 2021, a gathering to address homelessness took place in Sioux City. This meeting came about after protests following the removal of a camp near 4th and Wesley Parkway just outside of downtown.

All sides brought their concerns to city hall with a dialogue between advocates and professionals tasked with helping the homeless.

Sioux City’s new Community Inclusion Liaison Semehar Ghebrekidan moderated the conversation.

A public meeting is scheduled this afternoon to address homelessness in Sioux City. The gathering at City Hall scheduled for 1:15 comes after a protest at last week’s City Council Meeting surrounding the removal of a homeless camp near 4th and Wesley Parkway.

The information gathered will be shared with the Inclusive Sioux City Advisory Committee who will then provide recommendations to the City Council on ways to improve current practices.

Dakota County Health Department

Tonight, the Sioux City Community School Board meets to discuss the district’s Return-to-Learn plan and Pandemic relief funding.

Students started last school year with a hybrid model of learning with two days in the classroom. That continued for a few weeks and again after the winter break.

The meeting starts at 6 p.m.

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The University of Nebraska has announced updated coronavirus protocols in response to a rising number of cases in the state and guidance from the CDC.  All vaccinated faculty, staff, students and visitors to its campuses are encouraged, but not required, to wear face masks indoors. Unvaccinated people should continue to wear masks. Masks are required indoors for all people at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. University officials strongly recommend vaccinations for everyone affiliated with the university, but won’t require them.

UnityPoint Health-St. Luke's

The number of COVID-19 cases is on the rise in Iowa and Siouxland. Siouxland Public Media reached out to one of the local experts, Dr. Michael Kafka, he Medical Director for Quality and Patient Safety at UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s in Sioux City to hear his take on this increase, delta variant, vaccine rates, masks, and more.

As of late last week, Kafka says Sioux City’s two major medical facilities are treating patients in the single digits.

Siouxland Public Media/Sheila Brummer

Democrat Deirde DeJear formed an exploratory committee in a potential quest to run for Iowa Governor in 2022.

The activist and small business owner, who ran for Secretary of State in 2020, told the Des Moines register she is analyzing the political and fundraising landscape to ensure a true path to victory. Part of that exploration took her to Sioux City on August 4, 2021, where she met with a small group of local leaders and activists at Western Iowa Tech Community College.

UnityPoint Health announced today it will require its more than 33,000 team members to be vaccinated against COVID-19.The three-state health system also continues to urge all eligible individuals to get their COVID-19 vaccination as soon as possible. MercyOne Medical Center announced that all staff would need to be vaccinated in early July.

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Updated national maps now show there are two areas of extreme drought in Iowa. Radio Iowa reports The state climatologist said the northwest and east-central Iowa areas have "missed out on widespread, heavier rains." According to the National Drought Mitigation Center, conditions deteriorated significantly in several large patches in Iowa and Minnesota over the past week.

Education leaders in South Dakota say that as the new school year approaches the state doesn’t have enough teachers and support staff, a situation they attribute to the coronavirus pandemic.

The State Education Secretary says every school district in South Dakota is dealing with staffing shortages with several teachers deciding to retire earlier than planned due to COVID-19.

Andrew Dutler/Sioux City Police Department

Training is extremely important for police officers and deputies. This week a special program provides high-level lessons to some four-legged law enforcers as well. Siouxland Public Media’s Sheila Brummer shares details and sounds of this intense instruction.

Local businessman Ryan Callaghan of RP Constructors helped cover the $20,000 pricetag for the training. 

The training sessions for the dogs and officers continue through tomorrow.

* Special thanks Sioux City Police Officer Andrew Dutler for recording the dogs in action.

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Tyson Foods is requiring all employees in the United States to e vaccinated against COVID-19.

According to a news release, all employees who work in an office setting must be fully vaccinated by October 1 and the rest of the workforce by November 1.

Tyson says the move is to help keep infection rates low. They say about half of their employees have already received their shots. Exceptions to the vaccination mandate will be made for people who need special medical or religious accommodations.

Native Americans and other residents spoke out yesterday at the Sioux City Council meeting about the removal of a downtown homeless camp. Siouxland Public Media’s Mary Hartnett has this report. 

The City Hall and Community Center in Sergeant Bluff are closed this week due to COVID-19. In a statement sent to Siouxland Public Media, the city clerk says an “unusually large number” of staff members were exposed to COVID-19. So, they decided to close City Hall and the Community Center to protect the public. They hope to have all facilities open by the weekend.

This week on The Exchange, we talk about the West and its history, and what is going on there today.

Now that it is high summer, national parks are crowded with tourists. But those parks have been created in places with deep Native American roots.  Today we talk with the creators of a new podcast where Native American voices tell stories of times before the creation of the national parks.

Also, how going west became an emancipatory move for many American women.  

A teenager has been sentenced to 50 years in prison for the shooting death of a woman at a New Year’s Eve party in Sioux City. Eighteen year old Anthony Bauer of Sioux City, was sentenced this morning after he plead guilty in June to second-degree murder, according to television station KTIV. In his plea, Bauer admitted that he and others fired several shots into a home where people were gathered for a New Year’s Eve party, killing 18-year-old Mia Kritis and wounding three others.

The National Weather Service issued an Air Quality Alert for northwest Iowa through this afternoon. The wildfires near Lake Winnipeg, Canada, drifted southward and will move through Sioux Falls and the Sioux City area. There were six out-of-control fires near Lake Winnipeg in Canada as of noon yesterday, with the biggest measuring more than 300 square miles. Those sensitive to smoke or with existing health conditions could experience health effects due to the smoke.

National Weather Service/Sioux Falls

A Siouxland Sheriff’s office is mourning the death of one of its own.

The Burt County Sheriff says Deputy Justin Smith passed away yesterday after a battle with COVID-19.

Deputy Smith has been a member of the Burt County Sheriff's Office and since 2008. He also served as the Police Chief of Decatur, Nebraska. 

The Burt County Board of Supervisors has requested that all flags in the county be lowered to half-staff.

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The National Weather Service issued a heat advisory today for the entire state of Iowa, most of South Dakota and a large portion of Nebraska.

The heat advisory is in effect until 9 p.m. for Siouxland with a heat index near 110.

Governors from all three Siouxland States slam the CDC’s announcement on Tuesday urging both vaccinated and nonvaccinated people to wear masks due to a surge of cases of COVID-19.

The CDC also advises children in schools wear masks this fall.

National Weather Service/Sioux Falls

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds called new revised guidance from the CDC surrounding wearing masks “not grounded in reality or common sense.”

Reynolds issued a statement shortly after the CDC recommended fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors in areas of the country where the virus is circulating widely.

She still encouraged people to get vaccinated, but went on to say she’s concerned the guidance will be used as a vehicle to mandate masks in states and schools, something she does not support.  

Leaders of national and Nebraska teachers unions are pushing back on critics of critical race theory and defending curriculum based on it. They accuse opponents of trying to prevent teaching kids the truth about racism in America. The National Education Association adopted a statement of support for CRT at a nationwide virtual gathering of teachers that included more than 80 Nebraska representatives.

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State Democrats are calling on Gov. Kim Reynolds to fill the vacant seats on the Iowa State Board of Public Health. The bipartisan board oversees state health department policy and advises the governor on public health issues, including the COVID-19 pandemic. But it was unable to meet earlier this month as seven of its eleven seats are vacant.

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Iowa Democrat Abby Finkenauer is running for Republican Chuck Grassley’s U.S. Senate seat. The one-term former congresswoman hopes her blue-collar credentials will propel her forward in a state that has grown more conservative over the years.

The 32-year-old offers a stark contrast to the 87-year-old Grassley, who was elected to his first Senate term eight years before Finkenauer was born.

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The first-degree murder trial of 36-year-old Roderick Banks started Wednesday in Woodbury County District Court.

Banks is accused of the shooting death of Solomon Blackbird near 26th and Douglas late last year.

Authorities say the motive for the shooting might be related to a drug deal between two men.

Banks was arrested in Alabama and sent back to Sioux City for trial.

Siouxland District Health

Local health officials are making a push for more people 12-years and older to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Siouxland District Health says cases are going up around the country, especially in areas with lower vaccination rates. A post on social media says the vaccine is free and easily available in Siouxland. People can call their local health departments, pharmacies, or doctors to set up an appointment.

Meanwhile, UnityPoint Health in Des Moines reports 95% to 99% of their COVID-19 patients are not vaccinated.

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South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem announces the state finished the last fiscal year with an $86 million surplus. The Republican governor says tax revenue hit a 30-year high and finished $62 million over what was estimated. The state also spent about $24 million less than what was budgeted for the fiscal year that ended on June 30. Noem credits the state’s “respect for freedom and our continued emphasis on fiscal responsibility” for the financial windfall. Federal coronavirus relief funds sent both to taxpayers and state government also fueled the surplus.

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Republican US Senator Joni Ernst stopped in Northwest Iowa today to meet with law enforcement officials. Ernst toured the Le Mars law enforcement center and talked with officers about increasing crime and a lack of resources to deal with it.  Ernst said there has been more violence in nearby large cities in Minnesota and Illinois, and it is now spreading to Iowa.

Some high profile Republicans who may run for president are in Des Moines today (Friday) where they’ll speak at a gathering of Christian conservatives.  Two members of the Trump White House will address The Family Leader’s annual Leadership Summit: former Vice President Mike Pence and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem will also be there.

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A prosecutor today has rejected claims that the killing of  a University of Iowa student could be connected to sex trafficking and other abductions.  Mollie Tibbetts disappeared and was found murdered in rural eastern Iowa in 2018.  Cristhian Bahena Rivera was convicted for the murder earlier this year. The 27-year-old dairy farm worker testified that two masked men killed Tibbetts but forced him to dispose of her body.

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Officials say no deaths or injuries have been reported from tornadoes that tore through central and eastern Iowa, but many have found damaged buildings, shredded trees and overturned vehicles in the path of the storms. The National Weather Service says law enforcement and trained spotters confirmed tornadoes  yesterday afternoon and night in mostly rural, uninhabited areas. But one that touched down near Lake City in north-central Iowa damaged a home, flipped a truck and trailer and flattened nearby corn crops. 

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