mask mandate

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.

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.

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.


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. 

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.

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.

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.”

Iowa Democrats are calling on Republican Governor Kim Reynolds to allow schools to follow CDC guidelines and require students and teachers to wear masks. Reynolds signed a new law in May that prohibits mask mandates in schools.

House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst of Windsor Heights cautions against districts defying that law. She pointed to bills in the last legislative session that targeted Des Moines schools for violating state guidelines.

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.

Students across the state of Iowa went to school yesterday for the first time without the requirement of wearing masks. This also included the Sioux City Community School District where Siouxland Public Media’s Sheila Brummer caught up with parents for and against the change.

Early Thursday morning, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed a law passed by Republican members of the legislature banning cities, counties, and school district form issuing mask mandates.

A majority of students at Perry Creek Elementary lined up for class Thursday morning without their masks.



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Iowa reported another 35 COVID-19 deaths and an additional 713 confirmed cases today as the number of counties with a high 14-day positivity rate continued to decrease.

At 10 a.m. today, the state was reporting 5,145 COVID-19-related deaths, according to the state's website.  In Woodbury County, there have been 18 new cases added to the total case count in the last 24 hours and no new deaths. 


National Weather Service

Siouxland is gearing up for the second Blizzard Warning in three weeks.  The warning starts tonight at 6 and extends until 6 p.m. tomorrow.  The forecast calls for 3 to 8 inches by tomorrow afternoon, with wind gusts as high as 60 miles per hour.

On social media, the National Weather Service says the severity of the storm will depend on how much snow falls. If we see more than an inch on the group with additional blowing snow, conditions will be more significant, especially for portions of Iowa and Minnesota.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said today she will extend the state's mask requirements and limitations on some indoor and outdoor gatherings for another week. Last month, Reynolds issued a mask requirement for when people are indoors and within 6 feet of people from outside of their household for 15 minutes or more,  limited the size of indoor and outdoor gatherings; and restricted bar hours.

Iowa PBS

Iowa’s governor says she wants to keep students in class during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I would encourage parents to talk to educators, talk to school board and let’s get kids back in school.”

Governor Kim Reynolds made her statements during a news conference this morning.

Reynolds says scientific evidence shows children up to the age of 10 are less likely to become infected and most positive cases in schools are from staff members who were likely infected from outside the classroom.

Sioux City Police Department

Stricter mask requirements went into effect in Iowa almost a month ago.  But, are people in Sioux City following the rules?  Siouxland Public Media’s talked to the top law enforcer for city for an update the impact of the disease on the police force.

Sioux City’s Police Chief says so far no citations have been handed out  since the Governor issued a partial mask mandate for public spaces.

“More often than not we are finding when someone calls and lists a concern people are voluntarily complying.  No one is trying to make a statement out there.”

For the second straight day, Iowa reported a staggering number of COVID-19 deaths. Another 84 deaths were reported today, following 70 a day earlier. Before this week, the highest number of deaths reported in a single day was 47, which was reported on Nov. 25.

Deaths in all three Siouxland states due to complications of COVID-19 continue to climb.

Nebraska saw 62 during a 24-hour period and 2,000 additional cases.

There were almost 1,300 additional cases in South Dakota as the state moves closer to reaching the 1,000 mark for deaths.  Forty-seven more people have died from the illness, one of the highest single-day death tallies since the pandemic began.

The CDC says last week the Rushmore State had the highest per capita death rate in the nation.  There have been 995 deaths.


The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations at Sioux City’s two major medical facilities reached an all-time high on Monday. 

MercyOne and UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s are caring for a combined 102 patients, with 72 battling COVID-19 only.  The previous high was in late May when patient levels reached the mid 90s. 

Hospitalizations continued to fall in other parts of Iowa.  However, some health care officials are expressing concern that they may rise again if Thanksgiving gatherings caused additional virus spread as expected.

Governor Kim Reynolds will give a live address to Iowans about COVID-19 at 6:05 tonight.

A news release says Reynolds will announce new steps to fight the virus and talk about Iowans' need to practice virus mitigation efforts.


Iowa saw the most new cases of COVID-19 in a 24-hour period since the start of the pandemic, with more than 2,800 new infections and 26 deaths.  That includes a man in Woodbury County between the ages of 61-and-80 for 101 deaths in all and 95 news cases.

Woodbury County’s 14-day test positivity rate is the highest since the state started releasing that data at 20%. 

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It is election day, and Iowa voters are expected to cast ballots in record numbers. Nearly a million people have cast absentee ballots.


Concerns about the coronavirus contributed to the surge in early voting. 64% of active Democratic voters and 42% of Republicans requested absentee ballots. 

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds today announced some changes in quarantine recommendations for people that have been exposed to positive cases of COVID-19. 

At her morning news conference today, Reynolds said, from now on, close contacts of COVID-positive cases would no longer need to quarantine for 14 days, if a face covering was worn consistently and correctly by the positive case and close contacts. Reynolds said school districts had expressed frustration with the quarantine recommendations. 


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Today Nodland Elementary School moved a second grade class to emergency response virtual learning, after multiple individuals from one classroom either tested positive for COVID-19 or experienced symptoms.

The Sioux City Community School District says it plans to return the class to on-Site Learning on Wednesday, September 23.

Coming up on The Exchange, a Woodbury County judge last week invalidated more than 50 thousand prefilled absentee ballot request forms about sixty days out from the November election, after a lawsuit filed by the GOP and President Trump's campaign. The plaintiffs argue that Secretary of State Paul Pate decreed that only unpopulated absent ballot requests could be sent out.

Iowa PBS

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds acknowledged the increase of COVID-19 cases in the state during a news conference today.

The CDC reported last week, Iowa saw the highest rate of new cases in the nation and 5th highest number of positivity rates.

Reynolds says the biggest increase is with younger adults in the college towns of Iowa City, Ames and even Iowa Falls.

The governor didn’t call for further action as recommended by the CDC for impacted areas, including a mask mandate. 

The coronavirus continues to spread in Iowa. Another 11 people with COVID-19 have died, and there have been nearly an additional 705 confirmed cases, the state reported Friday, according to the state's website. There have been 865 deaths because of the coronavirus in Iowa. Polk and Woodbury Counties continue to have the highest number of cases of the virus. 

Woodbury County has tallied 3612 cases and 47 deaths, and no new deaths or cases yet today.

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A coalition of health groups led by the Iowa Medical Society have sent Governor Kim Reynolds a letter, urging her to issue a statewide face mask mandate.

A heat wave is impacting Siouxland.  A heat advisory will continue through tomorrow night for a large portion of the region, including sections of northwest Iowa and southeast South Dakota and Dixon and Dakota counties in northeast Nebraska.  The heat index will reach into the triple digits.

The National Weather Service says drink plenty of fluids, stay in air-conditioning if possible, keep out of the sun and take extra precautions if you work or spend time outside.