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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

The early 19th century camp site of the Lewis and Clark Expedition was artfully recreated last weekend as part of the annual Sergeant Floyd Memorial Encampment outside of the Sergeant Floyd River Museum. Floyd died in what is now Sioux City; the only man to die on the trip.

Siouxland Public Media’s Mary Hartnett visited the site of the recreated camp and spoke with the Corps of Discovery’s blacksmith.

More than a dozen Woodbury County residents spoke out against using federal coronavirus money to build the new Law Enforcement Center at yesterday’s supervisor’s meeting. Siouxland Public Media’s Mary Hartnett has more.  

Members of the group United Today, Stronger Tomorrow argued against using more than 15 million dollars in American Recovery Plan Act money, meant to offset costs from the coronavirus pandemic, for the new Law Enforcement Center.  The UTST and labor leaders held a press conference and described their concerns last week. 

National Weather Service/Sioux Falls

Parts of Siouxland are under a heat advisory until six tonight. The heat index will climb easily into the triple digits. According to the National Weather Service, there is a chance for severe storms with hail and high wind. Plus, areas south of Yankton to Spencer will have an elevated risk for a brief tornado.

Due to the heat, Hunt Elementary school will have an early dismissal. While a new school is being built, students are attending class in the old Crescent Park building. It is the only non-air conditioned school in the district.

Courtesy of woodburycounty.gov Edit | Remove

Every person in Iowa, vaccinated or not, should wear a mask when in public indoor spaces because of the level of spread of COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  Iowa’s COVID-19 cases have increased steadily since late June, with the state adding 1,992 cases in a single day this week, according to New York Times data. That total, on Wednesday, was the highest the state has recorded since 2,478 cases on Jan. 6, as reported by Iowa Capital Dispatch. Daily gains were much more significant at other points in the pandemic. For example, in November, some days topped 4,000 cases.

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.

Siouxland is reporting lower positivity and hospitalization rates this week due to COVID 19. Yesterday, Siouxland District Health reported the positivity rate is almost 7%, with only three hospitalizations due to COVID only at Sioux City Hospitals.

However, the number of people vaccinated increased by about point-six (.6) percent. South Dakota is again seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases and 43% more hospitalizations. Almost 400 more South Dakotans have tested positive for COVID-19, with one more death recorded. 

Firefighters have contained a wildfire which burned southwest of Sturgis, as the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally continues. The U.S. Forest Service says crews will continue to patrol and mop up following containment of the Kirk Hill fire. Smoke is expected for the next several days. The fire burned approximately 80 acres. No structures were lost in the fire and no evacuations were orderd at the

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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.

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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 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.

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. 

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.

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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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.

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