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NEWS 11.1.21: Election Day Preview, C19 Update, Open Enrollment, and More

2021 ballot
Woodbury County
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The final day for voting in Iowa’s city and school elections is tomorrow.

Polls are open on Election Day tomorrow from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Voters should bring one of the accepted forms of ID. Iowans who aren’t yet registered to vote can register at their polling place on Election Day.

Iowa also has a new deadline for absentee voting. Absentee ballots must be received by a voter’s county auditor by 8 p.m. on Election Day to be counted. It’s now too late to return a ballot by mail.

Voters who still have their absentee ballot should deliver it to their county auditor’s office by 8 p.m. tomorrow. Iowans can also bring their blank absentee ballot to their polling place tomorrow, surrender it to the poll workers, and then vote in person.

Those who voted by mail can check the Iowa Secretary of State’s website to see if their ballot was received by their county auditor.

Locally in Sioux City four people are on the ballot for city council, nine for school board.

Auditor and Election Commissioner Pat Gill expects lower turnout than two-years ago, due to the changes in early voting laws. Back then 5,000 turned in absentee ballots in Woodbury County. This time around only 700 requests arrived on time.

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Iowa Department of Public Health
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The Iowa Department of Public Health released new COVID-19 data Monday.

There were more than 6,600 new positive tests in a week.

Iowa’s 14-day test positivity rate increased slightly to 8.1%. Woodbury County has the 5th highest rate in the state with a 7-day test positivity rate of 12%.

Hospitalizations continue to show a downward trend. There are 467 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, down more than 5% since Friday. Of those hospitalized with COVID-19, 72.2% are unvaccinated, while 80% are in intensive care.

Statewide almost 67.5% of Iowans 18 and older are vaccinated. The rate in Woodbury County is almost 63%.

Open enrollment starts today for Iowans seeking to enroll in health coverage through the federal marketplace.

The Iowa Insurance Commissioner says people should start the enrollment process as early as possible because there are many different plans and options, plus, there’s financial assistance available.

Open enrollment ends on January 15th. Iowans can get more information and sign up for a plan at heathcare.gov.

A new monthly survey of business leaders in nine Midwest and Plains states shows significant jumps in employment and inventories since September, but confidence in the economy over the next six month remained at a dismal low.

The overall index for October of the Creighton University Mid-America Business Conditions released Monday rose to 65.2 from September's 61.6.

Any score above 50 on the survey’s indexes suggests growth. But the survey's business confidence index, which looks ahead six months, failed to budge from 37 recorded in September.

South Dakota’s Government Accountability Board has called for more information in at least one ethics complaint against Gov. Kristi Noem. It was weighing multiple requests made by the attorney general against Noem. But the public was kept in the dark about which complaints the board wants information on. The board is required to keep the details of complaints secret unless it decides they warrant a public hearing. Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg had asked the board to consider investigating Noem's use of state airplanes, as well as concerns about whether she interfered in a state agency that was evaluating her daughter’s application for a real estate appraiser license.

An Iowa panel responsible for resolving lawsuits against the state has agreed to pay nearly $400,000 in attorney and expert witness fees as part of a settlement in a lawsuit in which University of Iowa officials reversed a decision to eliminate the women’s swimming program. The State Appeal Board voted Monday to pay $399,989 to five attorneys and three expert witnesses. Iowa Solicitor General Jeff Thompson says the payment was part of a court-approved settlement. Members of the women’s swimming and diving team sued last year alleging the decision to eliminate the program violated a federal law that bars sex-based discrimination in federally funded education programs.

Running for a school board seat is getting expensive in Iowa given the current intense interest in how schools are responding to the coronavirus pandemic and teaching history. The Des Moines Register reports that the 58 candidates running for school board seats in the Des Moines area’s seven largest school districts have collectively raised more than $180,000 for the Nov. 2 elections. In the last two elections, all the candidates in those same districts raised less than $35,000. Several candidates raised over $10,000 apiece for their races, which is something no candidate did in the 2017 and 2019 elections.

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Nineteen states are now suing to block President Joe Biden's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal contractors. One suit filed in Missouri on Friday includes that state as well as Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. A second suit filed in Georgia also includes Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia. Texas sued individually on Friday, while Florida filed a separate lawsuit Thursday. The lawsuits argue that the Biden administration overstepped its authority in requiring federal contractors to make their employees get the coronavirus vaccine. Biden has argued that sweeping vaccine mandates will help end the deadly pandemic.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Gov. Kim Reynolds has signed into law a bill that allows Iowa workers to seek medical and religious exemptions from COVID-19 vaccine mandates and guarantees that those who are fired for refusing a vaccine will qualify for unemployment benefits. Reynolds signed the bill Friday and the law becomes effective immediately. Reynolds has opposed federal requirements for masks and vaccines, even though COVID-19 has killed nearly 7,000 people in Iowa and medical science has shown both to be effective in reducing the spread of the coronavirus. In Iowa, 55.4% of the population is fully vaccinated. Reynolds says no Iowan should lose their job over the vaccine.

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Public schools in Nebraska's largest city are facing staff shortages and have turned to bilingual high school students to interpret when families talk with teachers during report card conferences. The Omaha school district has some full-time bilingual liaisons, but students and their families speak more than 100 different languages, and more than 18,000 students have received services for limited English speakers at some time while in the district. Lisa Utterback, the district’s chief student and community services officer, told the Omaha World-Herald that the district has about 20 students contracted as interpreters. The students are paid $18 an hour to help with middle and elementary school conferences.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Workers at a Sioux Falls pork processing plant that was overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic said the company is no longer working in good faith. A spokesman for the United Food and Commercial Workers local union say they are “fed up” with injustices at their facilities after being on the front lines of the coronavirus at the Smithfield plant for nearly two years. Local union president B.J. Motley says that the company is speeding up lines of production, verbally abusing employees, and neglecting social distancing and sanitary measures. Jim Monroe, vice president of corporate affair for Smithfield, said in a statement to the Argus Leader that it’s the first time they have heard those concerns and they disagree with the “portrayal of conditions” at the facility.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Former South Dakota Gov. Frank Farrar, whose uncanny rise to politics as a young man quickly morphed into a career as a banker and philanthropist, died Sunday. He was 92. Known as the “boy wonder” who was the youngest person ever elected state attorney general, Farrar became the state’s 24th governor in 1968. Farrar ran unopposed for the Republican nomination and easily won the general election. However, he had the distinction of being the last elected incumbent governor to lose reelection when, in 1970, he lost his bid for a second term to Democrat Dick Kneip. Farrar left politics and focused on banking and philanthropy. He was inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame in 2006.

Sheila Brummer returns to her radio roots as a Reporter/Special Projects Producer for Siouxland Public Media KWIT-KOJI.