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NEWS 11.29.21

Iowa Department of Public Health

A federal judge in Missouri has temporarily blocked a federal vaccine mandate for health care workers in 10 states, including Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota.

The Biden administration is requiring health care facilities to ensure staff are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by January 4th. Or they risk losing federal funding through Medicare and Medicaid, which would make it impossible for many health care facilities to stay in business.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds joined a lawsuit challenging the requirement earlier this month. In a statement at the time, she called the mandate “an attack on individual liberties” and said it would make workforce shortages worse.

The vaccine mandate is on hold until there’s a trial or a court that says otherwise.

Currently, about 69% of Iowans aged 18 and older have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. In Woodbury County, the level is 64.6%. The Siouxland County with the highest vaccination rate is Buena Vista with 79.5%. Sioux and Lyon Counties have the lowest with about 51%.

Meanwhile, the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 continues to climb in Iowa.

New information from the IDPH on Monday shows 665 patients hospitalized with the virus, up from 616 at the last report on Friday.

Of those hospitalized with COVID-19, around three-fourths are unvaccinated with 85.6% of the patients in intensive care being unvaccinated.

Iowa’s 14-day positivity rate increased about a third of a percent to almost 11%. The seven-day level in Woodbury County is 9% and 210 cases in a week. The positivity rate in Ida County is 26% with 37 cases in one week.

The state of Iowa released new virus information every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday on the Iowa Coronavirus website.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem is seeking a role in a pair of legal battles over abortion access as the U.S. Supreme Court reaches a potentially defining moment on the issue. The Republican governor promised that if South Dakota loses an appeal in a legal fight over a state law that would require women seeking abortions to consult first with crisis pregnancy centers, which generally advise women not to get abortions, she would try to get the Supreme Court to consider the case. She has already signed onto a legal argument that seeks to undermine the Supreme Court's previous ruling that access to abortions allows women equal economic and social rights.

Two southeast Iowa teenagers charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the death of their high school Spanish teacher have pleaded not guilty.

Willard Noble Chaiden Miller and Jeremy Everett Goodale are accused of killing Nohema Graber in Fairfield earlier this month.

In the arraignment documents filed Monday, Miller and Goodale also waived their right to a speedy trial, which means prosecutors are not required to try them within 90 days of formal charges being filed Nov. 12.

Investigators believe the teens plotted the teacher’s murder, using social media to discuss details of their plans and a potential motive.

Graber’s killing has shocked the city where she is remembered as a devoted educator and a beloved member of the local Latino community.

A judge is expected to rule this week on whether the teens should be released before trial and under what conditions. They’re currently both being held on a cash only bail of one million dollars.

Gov. Pete Ricketts appointed three new District Court Judges on Monday, Nov. 26, with two new judges in the Fourth Judicial District in the Omaha area and one in the Ninth Judicial District in the western part of the state.

Ricketts’ Office says all three Judges were appointed to fill vacancies created by previous District Court Judges’ retirements.

The first of dozens of public meetings started this afternoon on a proposal to build a carbon dioxide pipeline that would run the length of the state of Iowa.

The Heartland Greenway project would pipe pressurized carbon dioxide across some 1,300 miles and five states, ending in Illinois.

The project would capture emissions at multiple ethanol plants across the five states. Some researchers say carbon capture is vital to lowering emissions, but some worry about safety.

The first meeting took place at Rock Rapids today at noon with another in Le Mars at 6 o’clock tonight, with 35 more Iowa meetings scheduled. It’s the second such project recently proposed in Iowa. Other meetings take place in Siouxland tomorrow through Thursday. A meeting takes place in Cherokee County tomorrow at noon at the Aurelia Community Center, tomorrow night at 6 at the Sioux City Convention Center. Other meetings are planned for Sheldon, Sibley, Spirit Lake. and Estherville.

More information is available on the Iowa Utilities Board website. https://iub.iowa.gov/press-release/2021-10-27/iub-sets-37-public-informational-meetings-proposed-navigator-pipeline

Big cats are back on display at the Great Plains Zoo in Sioux Falls after a snow leopard died of COVID-19. The animals, including tigers and snow leopards, have tested negative for the virus and were to return to their exhibits on Wednesday. On Oct. 6, the zoo reported that a tiger tested positive for the virus. A day later. a snow leopard died from pneumonia induced by the virus. Zoo officials say lab tests confirm all of the zoo’s big cat collection is clear of the virus and can be viewed by the public.

New data indicates the addition of sports betting drove a 20% revenue increase for Deadwood casinos in October. The South Dakota Commission on Gaming’s report shows gamblers shelled out almost $126 million on wagers in October. Through the first 10 months of the year, they've spent almost $1.3 billion on wagers. That's up nearly 40% from 2020 when casinos were temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The gaming commission authorized sports betting in September.