September 26, 2020 - 6:27 pm - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa —  The University of Iowa’s Vice President for Medical Affairs, Brooks Jackson, says he is encouraged about the prospect for a COVID-19 vaccine.

(As above) “The data emerging on the leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates currently in large phase-three clinical trials in the U-S looks very promising,” Jackson says.

Jackson says Iowa is doing its part.

(As above) He says they are one of the sites in the Pfizer trial and they recently completed the target enrollment for the trial. 

Jackson says they are starting to plan for using a vaccine.

(As above) “And while it is difficult to predict the timing of vaccine approval — we are beginning now to work to plan for the logistics of COVID-19 vaccine distribution in coordination with the Iowa Department of Public Health,” according to Jackson. “This groundwork will ensure that we will be ready to administer rapidly, one or more COVID-19 vaccines when the time comes.”  

Jackson made his comments during the Board of Regents meeting.

Statewide Iowa —  A new report finds Iowa has lost about half its licensed child care centers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The report by the non-profit Child Care Aware of America found the state’s licensed child care centers dropped from nearly 16-hundred in January to just over 800 in July.

Spokeswoman Kristina Haynie says some closures may be temporary, while larger centers may be struggling with additional costs associated with new cleaning and child-staff ratio requirements.

(As above) “So, like group sizes, that used to be maybe nine children per classroom has gone down to half that,” she says, “but they can’t let go staff and so they’re paying the same number of staff, but serving fewer children.” 

The report found in-home providers are faring much better during the pandemic. Their numbers stayed about the same from January to July, actually adding four programs during the time period. Haynie says larger licensed centers may be struggling because they have more children and staff to manage.

(As above) “So many parents might be working from home or they’re unemployed, they might not be sending their children to child care at this point,” she says. “And so, centers if they don’t have that many children, it’s really not feasible for them to stay in business.”

The report recommends investing more government support in child care and providing more resources and support for families and providers.

Statewide Iowa — Only a few days remain to respond to the 2020 U.S. Census and if you haven’t filled it out yet you’re being urged to do so.

State Data Center coordinator Gary Krob says the Census Bureau will only be collecting data through next Wednesday, September 30th.

(As above) “Iowa currently has just over a 70% response rate,” Krob says. “We saw about one in four households that haven’t responded. We need to get those responses in as quickly as we can. The bureau is actually going door-to-door to all of these non-responders trying to get the responses. It’s also still possible to respond either online or on the phone.” 

Krob says there are several ways to respond before next week to make sure you and your family are counted.

(As above) “Initially what they would’ve gotten would’ve been a postcard which you then go to a website to log in and fill it out,” Krob says. “You can still fill it out online. If they have a paper form, they can fill that out and mail it in as well, or there is a phone number that they can call and get it done.”

You can call 844-330-2020 or go online to 2020Census.gov. Responding to the census may not seem all that important, but Krob says those numbers can have a big impact.

(As above) “One is representation. We use these numbers to draw not just our congressional districts for Washington D.C. but also our state legislative districts, the House and Senate,” Krob says. “School district boundaries are readjusted every ten years based on these numbers, so, representation really is a key component to the decennial census.” 

There’s also the matter of billions of dollars in federal funding that’s based on census figures. The 2020 Census data will be on President Trump’s desk by December 31st and we’ll start seeing the numbers roll out early next year.

September 25, 2020 - 3:47 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — There was another record-breaking total of new COVID-19 cases on Friday. A total of 117 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in far northwest Iowa Friday. The old record was two days before, with 86 on Wednesday, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Sixteen northwest Iowans have now died in connection with COVID-19 since the pandemic started — nine in O’Brien County, four in Lyon County, and three in Sioux County.

Sioux County reports a total of 1554 cases since the pandemic started, after a rise of 65 cases in the last 24 hours. O’Brien County is at 358, which is up 18 cases. Lyon County was up 28 cases at 313, and Osceola County was up 6 at 156.

As far as active cases, Lyon County has 138, Sioux County has 667, O’Brien County has 155, and Osceola has 56.

With all the recent new cases, the recovery rates have taken a hit. We’ve seen rates in the 80s and even the 90s not too long ago. Now we’re lucky to break 60 percent recovery.

Out of the 313 Lyon County residents who have had COVID-19, 171 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 55%.
Out of the 1554 Sioux County residents who have had COVID-19, 884 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 57%.
Out of the 358 O’Brien County residents who have had COVID-19, 194 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 54%.
Out of the 156 Osceola County residents who have had COVID-19, 100 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 64%.

Total numbers of cases from other counties around the area and their change from the previous report:

Iowa counties:
Plymouth 1120, up 21
Cherokee 244, up 12
Buena Vista 1974, up 10
Clay 319, up 10
Dickinson 508, up 4

Figures reported reflect the 24-hour period from noon Thursday, September 24 to Noon Friday, September 25.

According to a statement released by each of the four Sioux County hospitals – Hawarden Regional Healthcare, Hegg Health Center, Sioux Center Health, and Orange City Area Health System — They are all currently caring for COVID-positive inpatients. They write, “Some of the more acute patients who would typically be transferred to larger hospitals (in Sioux Falls and Sioux City) are being cared for locally due to a full capacity in those hospitals. In addition, each of the county health systems is experiencing some level of staffing challenges because of employees being quarantined.”

The hospitals and their experts are requesting the schools in the county to, among other things, “mandate facial coverings/masks at every possible level.”

September 25, 2020 - 10:08 am - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa — A recent survey published by the Centers for Disease Control found anxiety and depression are at an all-time high among Iowans.

Liz Cox, CEO of the Polk County Mental Health Region, says nearly 40 percent of Iowans reported feelings of despair and worry during the pandemic.

(as said) “Last spring a dense fog of the unknown rolled across Iowa overwhelming our work routines, disconnecting us from trusted friends, co-workers and family,” Cox says. “We’ve all experienced changes at home, social isolation, loss of a routine, lack of sleep and, for some, the loss of a job or the loss of a loved one.”

Cox is urging Iowans to address their stress and seek help.

(as said) “Rather than turning to drugs or alcohol, negative self talk or overwhelming ourselves with work, we have better mental health outcomes when we take time to decompress,” Cox says, “when we talk to a counselor, a friend, a faith leader; we exercise or we ask for help when we need it.”

Cox says many school districts have hired mental health counselors or reserved spaces for staff and students to talk with someone via a “telehealth” connection. A 2019 report found the teenage suicide rate in Iowa increased 30 percent in the previous three years.

(as said) “Please say something. Listen non-judgementally. Give reassurance and information,” Cox says, “and encourage appropriate professional help.”

State officials say pharmacy records appear to indicate many Iowans are seeking help, as there’s been a 20 percent increase this year in prescriptions for medications that address anxiety and depression.

September 24, 2020 - 4:25 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — This is Child Passenger Safety Week. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is promoting Child Passenger Safety Week from September 20-26, 2020. The goal is to make sure your child is in the correct car seat, that it’s properly installed and used, and that it’s registered with its manufacturer to ensure you receive important safety updates.

Sioux County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Nate Huizenga tells us about the Iowa Law that applies to child restraints.

But Huizenga says experts recommend going above and beyond the law.

Dr. Jessica Greenley at the Iowa Clinic says experts recommend children stay in rear-facing seats for as long as possible. Then, they recommend they stay in a front-facing seat with a harness until they exceed the weight limit of the seat. At that point, they should sit in a belt-positioning booster. Huizenga tells us the conditions that should be met before a child graduates to using only a seat belt.

Huizenga tells us officers commonly see child restraint seats misused.

You can find more information by calling your health provider. Many of them have people that will come out and check your seats. Or if they don’t, they will know who to call. Huizenga says you can even call the sheriff’s office and they’ll make sure you’re using the seats properly so your children are as safe as possible in the event of a collision.

September 24, 2020 - 4:15 pm - Posted in News

Hull, Iowa — A Hull woman was injured late Wednesday night when she fell from the back of a motorcycle near Hull.

The Sioux County Sheriff’s Office says the mishap occurred around 11:00 Wednesday night on Hickory Avenue, three miles north of Hull. Deputies say 42-year-old Adam Sickles, of Sheldon, was driving a 1982 Honda CB750C motorcycle northbound on Hickory Avenue when his passenger, 27-year-old Jennie Trigg, of Hull, fell from the motorcycle.

Authorities say Trigg was transported by the Hull Ambulance to Hegg Health Center in Rock Valley with undisclosed injuries.

Deputies say they cited Sickles for operating a motorcycle without a valid motorcycle license.

September 24, 2020 - 4:04 pm - Posted in News

Hawarden, Iowa — Local, state and federal officials are celebrating the completion of a major upgrade to internet access in parts of rural northwest Iowa.

A 13-million dollar project added 422 miles of fiber optics between several communities, including Hawarden and Akron. The project was made possible with a grant of more than 7-million dollars from the USDA, where Bette Brand is Deputy Undersecretary for Rural Development.

(As above) “All of America needs robust, modern infrastructure to thrive and this is a necessity, not an amenity,” Brand says, “and this pandemic only highlighted the digital divide even more.”

Brand joined Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg and others in Hawarden on Wednesday, seeing the results of the upgrade first-hand. Brand says completion of the project was vital.

(As above) “To be more productive, to access better opportunities and to keep up with the rest of the world, every American household needs to access high speed broadband,” Brand says.

Lieutenant Governor Gregg announced that Governor Kim Reynolds is designating 50-million dollars in CARES Act money to increase access to high speed broadband in rural Iowa. Gregg says it’s an accelerated grant program, so there will be a higher match and that will allow the funds to go a long way. Brand applauds that effort.

(As above) “There are 21-million Americans without broadband high speed access and 80% of those are in rural communities,” Brand says. “Our focus is on those that have no access and building on that so rural communities really need to be the center of our attention in getting this done.”

Doug Boone, CEO of Premiere Communications in Sioux Center, says this matches with his company’s vision and his hope is to bring this connectivity to Lyon County soon. Boone says despite the five-month turnaround on the project, it didn’t come without its challenges.

(As above) “The difficult part we had with the Haywarden-Akron exchanges in particular was that it was just sparsely populated and we needed to find a way to get some support to help us be able to afford to make that investment,” Boone says.

In another three to four months, he says most of the 12-hundred customers will be converted and will be receiving high speed broadband internet service. The fiber optics also reach into parts of Union and Lincoln counties in South Dakota.

Sioux County, Iowa — Two Sioux County manufacturing firms are receiving grants from the Corona Virus Relief Employer Innovation Fund.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds announced the awards that 65 applicants are receiving the grants, which are designed to assist local employers, nonprofits, community colleges, high schools, private universities, and the University of Iowa provide postsecondary training and education to Iowans whose employment has been impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic.  More than $4.3 million has been awarded to the winning projects. The grants are awarded through the Future Ready Iowa Program.

The Coronavirus Relief Fund Employer Innovation Fund grants can be used to cover the cost of training, books, and equipment as well as often providing much needed wrap-around support that address other barriers some Iowans face when trying to obtain skills training.

The Sioux County manufacturing companies to receive the grants are Dethmers Manufacturing of Boyden and Valley Machining Company of Rock Valley.

The $24,370 grant received by Dethmers (Demco) is for their Weld Training project, which will allow employees to obtain much-needed training for high-demand skills that would otherwise not be possible during these uncertain times. Individuals will obtain non-credit certification as well as support for related expenses including books and transportation. Six Iowans with no post-secondary training beyond high school will be trained

The $27,750 grant awarded to Valley Machining will support training of a minimum of twenty-five employees who have experienced reductions in salary and hours due to the pandemic. The training will include advanced CNC programming training.

The Future Ready Iowa goal is to have 70 percent of Iowans in the workforce with education and training beyond high school by 2025.  Approximately 60 percent of Iowa’s current workforce meets this education and training criteria.  Visit www.FutureReadyIowa.gov for more information.

September 24, 2020 - 3:19 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — More northwest Iowa fire chiefs are asking farmers to have a disk hooked up to a tractor and have it ready to go help disk fire breaks to stop field fires.

Several field and combine fires have been reported in recent days. An Ashton area farmer lost what probably would have amounted to over $6000 worth of corn and soybeans in a fire on Tuesday. Ashton Fire Chief Andy Gacke says the fire, about two miles northeast of Ashton appeared to have been caused by a spark from a combine. He says about 10 acres of standing crops were destroyed.

Both Gacke and Hawarden Fire Chief Duane Schiefen are asking us to ask farmers to have those disks at the ready.

Schiefen says his department had a combine fire on Wednesday. He said it turned out minor, but if it had gotten into crops, it could have been much worse.

The Hull Fire Department also responded to a field fire recently. Luckily the only thing that burned in that fire was 15-20 acres of stubble, where the crop had already been harvested.

The Hull firefighters were also called to what was paged as a structure fire on Wednesday, three miles southwest of Hull on Highway 75, but when they got there, Fire Chief Greg Van Roekel says an electrical issue had caused an electrical box to blow. He says the fire was out when they got there, and they arrived to smoke coming from the unit. The damage was limited to the electrical equipment, says Van Roekel.