September 18, 2020 - 3:37 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — A total of sixty-seven COVID-19 cases were reported on Friday in the four northwestern-most Iowa counties, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Sioux County reports a total of 1266 cases, after a rise of 48 cases in the 24-hour period. O’Brien County is at 286, which is up six. Lyon County was up five cases at 227, and Osceola County was up eight at 121.

As far as active cases, Lyon County has 63, Sioux County has 500, O’Brien County has 111, and Osceola has 29. But very few of those people are in the hospitals. The hospitalization numbers are a couple of days behind, but on Wednesday, five Sioux County residents were hospitalized with COVID. Four O’Brien County residents and no residents of Osceola or Lyon counties were hospitalized with COVID.

Fifteen northwest Iowans have now died in connection with COVID-19 since the pandemic started. Nine in O’Brien County and three each in Lyon and Sioux Counties.

Recovery rate:
Out of the 227 Lyon County residents who have had COVID-19, 161 have recovered, for a rate of about 71%.
Out of the 1266 Sioux County residents who have had COVID-19, 763 have recovered, for a rate of about 60%.
Out of the 286 O’Brien County residents who have had COVID-19, 166 have recovered, for a rate of about 58%.
Out of the 121 Osceola County residents who have had COVID-19, 92 have recovered, for a rate of about 76%.

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

Iowa counties:
Plymouth 989, up 17
Cherokee 177, up 6
Buena Vista 1933, up 16
Clay 277, up 11
Dickinson 475, up 10

These numbers reflect the period of noon Thursday through noon Friday.

September 18, 2020 - 10:05 am - Posted in News

Sioux Center, Iowa — Dordt University’s overall enrollment for the fall 2020 semester is 1,666 – the largest enrollment in the institution’s history.

In addition to the largest total student enrollment ever, Dordt has its largest full-time equivalent (FTE) enrollment ever, a measure of how many credits students are taking, at 1,467 students.

Dordt welcomed 397 freshmen to campus this fall, which is the second-largest incoming freshmen class in 10 years. Greg Van Dyke, director of admissions, says that there was some uncertainty about what the fall 2020 semester would look like from an enrollment standpoint, given the Covid-19 pandemic.

Van Dyke says it’s very exciting to see students respond in a resounding ‘yes’ by committing to Dordt, which resulted in their second largest freshmen class in the past decade.

New graduate programs and Dordt’s highest-ever online enrollment for the fall semester have contributed to overall enrollment growth at Dordt.

Steve Holtrop, director of graduate studies state that they have excellent enrollment in their new graduate programs, including the Master of Social Work and Master of Public Administration programs. Also, their Master of Education program has more than doubled in three years, and Dordt has an all-time record for enrollment this fall.

Dordt also has a great freshman-to-sophomore retention rate this year, with 83.8 percent of last year’s freshmen returning to Dordt for their sophomore year.

Registrar Jim Bos says that a strong retention on a good-sized class from last year, plus a really good freshmen class this year, translates into a positive future.

Statewide Iowa — A state agency has notified Iowa nursing homes that the State Hygienic Lab doesn’t have the capacity to process all the COVID tests identified in new federal guidelines.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid now recommends routine testing of ALL nursing home staff, along with volunteers and contractors. Pat Garrett, a spokesman for Governor Reynolds, says the state will continue to test in nursing homes when staff or residents show symptoms or have been exposed to positive cases, but the new federal guidelines could generate more than 130-thousand additional tests per week. State Representative Timi Brown-Powers, a Democrat from Waterloo who’s a nurse, says the state already should have used federal pandemic relief money to pay for expanded testing in nursing homes.

(as said) “I prefer to play offense than defense,” she says. “I took this as, ‘We’re not going to put the effort in to make sure that we’re being proactive. We’re just going to wait until we have a problem.'”

Brown-Powers says an Iowa Department of Public Health Letter appears to tell nursing homes they can cite the lack of state testing capacity as the reason more routine COVID screenings aren’t being done.

(as said) “What they’re being told is: ‘We’re not going to do it. We know the feds are saying we should be doing it, so just document whatever you can and that will be good enough,'” Brown-Powers says.

The governor’s spokesman says the federal government plans to send supplies and processing equipment for RAPID COVID tests and state officials will notify nursing homes when those units are available. The state website lists outbreaks at 39 Iowa nursing homes Thursday, an increase from a week ago when there were 32.

(as asid) “We’re headed in the wrong direction, once again,” Brown-Powers says.

The state’s coronavirus website indicates 658 Iowa nursing home residents have died of COVID since the pandemic began. That’s nearly 53 percent of all the COVID deaths in Iowa.

Near Hawarden, Iowa — All farmers should have a tractor hooked up to a disk, ready to help fight field fires, at least through harvest — that from a northwest Iowa fire chief after a recent fire.

A silage cutter was destroyed in the fire on Tuesday, September 15, 2020, near Hawarden.

According to Hawarden Fire Chief Duane Schiefen, about 2:30 p.m., the Hawarden Fire Department was called to the report of a silage cutter on fire four to five miles west of Hawarden.

The chief says the fire department saw the machine fully engulfed in flame as they approached the scene. He says they used water and foam to fight the fire.

Schiefen says no injuries were reported. The fire department was assisted by the Alcester Fire Department. He says the cause of the fire appeared to be mechanical in nature.

Chief Schiefen reports that the machine was totaled. He says the firefighters who responded were on the scene for about an hour.

Northwest Iowa — The high rates of tests coming back positive and potential high absenteeism in northwest Iowa schools could soon make some of them eligible to begin two weeks of online-only learning.

One of the metrics that the state has chosen to use to determine eligibility for online learning is — out of all the COVID tests that are ordered in a 14-day period, what percentage of THEM are coming back positive. Sometimes this gets confused with another metric — the percentage of the population that has had COVID.

In the four northwesternmost Iowa counties, the percentage of tests coming back positive remains quite high. In fact, Sioux County has the highest percentage in the state, at 28.7 percent of tests coming back positive. That’s a little more than one in four tests. Lyon County is second in the state at 23.4 percent. Osceola is seventh at 15.1 percent. O’Brien County is tied for fourteenth at 11.9 percent.

If the county a school is in reaches a 14-day average test positivity rate of 15 percent, and at least 10 percent of students are absent, the school can apply for a waiver to request state permission to conduct the majority of learning virtually.

Just for comparison sake — the percentage of the population who has had COVID is much lower. In Sioux County, 3.49 percent of the population has had COVID. O’Brien County is just over two percent at 2.02 percent. In Lyon County, it’s 1.88 percent. Osceola is very close at 1.87 percent of the population having had COVID.

ACTIVE cases versus population is even lower — much lower — than that. In Lyon County, it’s a half of a percent. In Sioux County, it’s 1.33 percent. In O’Brien County, nearly eight-tenths of a percent of the population actively has COVID. And in Osceola County, it’s between three and four-tenths of a percent.

As for hospitalizations, those statistics are a few days behind, but as of Tuesday, only five people in Sioux County were hospitalized with COVID, four in O’Brien County, and zero in either Lyon or Osceola counties.

September 17, 2020 - 2:47 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — Another O’Brien County resident has died with COVID-19, and a total of SEVENTY-THREE NEW COVID-19 cases were reported on Thursday in the four northwestern-most Iowa counties, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

The rise of 73 cases appears to be the highest one-day rise on record for our area. The previous record of 60 cases was set the day before — Wednesday, September 16th. As usual, no information has been released that could potentially be used to identify the individual’s identity who died or their city of residence.

Sioux County reports a total of 1218 cases, after a rise of 55 cases in the 24-hour period. O’Brien County is at 280, which is up eight. Lyon County was up ten cases at 222, and Osceola County was up one at 113.

As far as active cases, Lyon County has 59, Sioux County has 465, O’Brien County has 109, and Osceola has 22.

Fifteen northwest Iowans have now died in connection with COVID-19 since the pandemic started. Nine in O’Brien County and three each in Lyon and Sioux Counties.

Recovery rate:
Out of the 222 Lyon County residents who have had COVID-19, 160 have recovered, for a rate of about 72%.
Out of the 1218 Sioux County residents who have had COVID-19, 750 have recovered, for a rate of about 62%.
Out of the 280 O’Brien County residents who have had COVID-19, 162 have recovered, for a rate of about 58%.
Out of the 113 Osceola County residents who have had COVID-19, 91 have recovered, for a rate of about 81%.

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

Iowa counties:
Plymouth 972, up 25
Cherokee 171, up 5
Buena Vista 1917, up 14
Clay 266, up 4
Dickinson 465, up 11

These numbers reflect the period of noon Wednesday through noon Thursday.

September 17, 2020 - 12:41 pm - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa — The number of initial claims in Iowa, filed between Sunday, Sept. 6, and Saturday, Sept. 12, was 4,962. There were 4,462 initial claims by individuals who work and live in Iowa, and 500 claims by individuals who work in Iowa and live in another state.  The number of continuing weekly unemployment claims for Sept. 6-12 was 65,653, a decrease of 5,300 from the previous week.

The U.S. Department of Labor adjusted last week’s initial claim number down to 5,252 (a decrease of 437) and continuing claims to 70,953 (a decrease of 691 for a total decrease of 1,128).

Unemployment insurance benefit payments totaled $18,386,679.39 for the week of Sept. 6-12. The following industries had the most claims: Construction (1,174), Manufacturing (890), Industry Not Available – Self-employed, Independent Contractors, etc (531), Health Care & Social Assistance (415), Accommodation & Food Services (332).

Des Moines, Iowa — Republican Governor Kim Reynolds is defending her decision to use federal coronavirus relief money to cover the salaries of 21 members of her staff.

(as said) “CARES (Act) funding can be used for salaries,” Reynolds says. “That’s very clear in what allowable allocations are.”

Some Democrats in the Iowa Senate have called for an investigation of the decision after the Bleeding Heartland blog first raised questions about the spending. Reynolds says federal guidance indicates CARES Act money may be used for expenses directly related to the pandemic. Reynolds says the roles for her staff immediately changed once COVID cases were confirmed in Iowa in early March.

(as said) “I moved the entire team out to the state Emergency Operations Center…to have everybody…hearing and seeing the same information, communicating, collaborating, putting a system together.”

The salaries of some, but not all of the governor’s staff, are covered with money from other state agency budgets. Reynolds says she felt those agencies shouldn’t shoulder the costs of those salaries if the staff worked on the state’s COVID response rather than on matters related to the agency. A Democrat in the state Senate says the state’s share of federal COVID relief money should be spent to help Iowans who’ve lost their job or are trying to keep their business afloat rather than pay state employees. Reynolds says her staff worked overtime to respond to the pandemic. Half were assigned to policy-related tasks. The other half were assigned to answer phone calls and emails from Iowans seeking information.

(as said) “So I have absolutely no problem submitting the $300,000 for the additional expense in salaries in our office,” Reynolds says.

The governor’s chief of staff says Reynolds has not formally signed off on the federal money transfer yet. The state legislature set aside more than four-and-a-half million dollars in the state budget for the governor’s office operations and the governor has broad authority to distribute the state money as she sees fit. The only salaries which are specified in state law are those for the governor and lieutenant governor.

September 17, 2020 - 10:09 am - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa — The DOT is now offering the 90th version of a new license plate.

DOT license plate administrator, Paul Cornelius, says the “Fly Our Colors” plate features the colors of the Iowa and US flags.

(as said)”The top of the plate is blue and then the middle of the plate is white and the bottom of the plate would be red. And then it kind of has an eagle in the middle that is kind of gray that you can see through the plate,” Cornelius says.

Part of the money from the plate will go into the state’s flood mitigation fund. He says you can get the plate at your county treasurer’s office in a standard number version — or you can personalize the plate.

(as said)”The $35 initial fee would be for the flood mitigation fund…and then there’s a $10 annual registration fee. That’s also for the flood mitigation fund, and that’s at the time of renewal,” according to Cornelius. “Then the personalized plates — it’s a $60 initial fee — so you have your normal $25 plate fee, then $35 of that 60 goes to the flood mitigation fund.”

Cornelius says there are a couple of ways to order the new red, white and blue plate. You can get a standard number plate by going to the treasurer’s office.

(as said)”If you want the personalized plate, then you would order that just like you would the blackout or any other one,” he says. “You can do that online. Or there’s a form that we use, there’s a special plate form that you can also fill out. You can get that from your county treasurer and mail that into the DOT.”

Cornelius says the hours vary at the 99 county treasurer offices, so you should check ahead to be sure they are open before you go there.

September 16, 2020 - 3:59 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — A total of SIXTY new COVID-19 cases were reported on Wednesday in the four northwestern-most Iowa counties, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Sioux County reports a total of 1163 cases, after a rise of thirty-eight cases in the 24-hour period. O’Brien County is at 273, which is up seven. Lyon County was up thirteen cases at 212, and Osceola County was up two at 112.

The rise of sixty cases appears to be the highest one-day rise on record for our northwest Iowa counties. About three and a third percent of Sioux County residents have been diagnosed with COVID-19. That works out to about one case in every 30 Sioux County residents.

As far as active cases, Lyon County has 51, Sioux County has 429, O’Brien County has 107, and Osceola has 21. But only a very small number of those cases are hospitalized. The latest statistics available at this time are for Tuesday. And at that point, only five people were hospitalized in Sioux County, four in O’Brien, and none in Osceola County or Lyon County.

Fourteen northwest Iowans have died in connection with COVID-19 since the pandemic started. Eight in O’Brien County and three each in Lyon and Sioux Counties.

Recovery rate:
Out of the 212 Lyon County residents who have had COVID-19, 158 have recovered, for a rate of about 75%.
Out of the 1163 Sioux County residents who have had COVID-19, 731 have recovered, for a rate of about 63%.
Out of the 273 O’Brien County residents who have had COVID-19, 158 have recovered, for a rate of about 58%.
Out of the 112 Osceola County residents who have had COVID-19, 91 have recovered, for a rate of about 81%.

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

Iowa counties:
Plymouth 947, up 11
Cherokee 166, up 3
Buena Vista 1903, up 3
Clay 262, up 4
Dickinson 454, up 2.

These numbers reflect the period of noon Tuesday through noon Wednesday.