November 25, 2020 - 3:12 pm - Posted in News

Sioux Falls, South Dakota — Sanford Health’s longtime CEO has stepped down, according to a press release from the health system.

According to the release, Sanford Health and longtime CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft have mutually agreed to part ways.

In their statement the Board of Trustees recognized Krabbenhoft’s contributions to the organization over his long tenure. He assumed the role of president and CEO in 1996 and built the organization from a community hospital into the largest rural non-profit health system in the country, now spanning 26 states and 10 countries. Board Chair Brent Teiken said, “Kelby’s impact on the organization and the communities it serves will be felt for generations to come.”

There is no word from the health system on the timing of Krabbenhoft’s departure.

The Sanford Board of Trustees has appointed Bill Gassen president and CEO of Sanford Health. Gassen has been with the organization since 2012, most recently serving as chief administrative officer. His appointment is effective immediately.

Sanford says their executive leadership team of Executive Vice President Micah Aberson, Chief Medical Officer Allison Suttle, Chief Operating Officer Matt Hocks, Chief of Staff Nathan Peterson and Chief Finance Officer Bill Marlette, will continue to assist with the duties of overseeing the organization.

Sanford operates several hospitals around the KIWA listening area, including the Sanford Sheldon Medical Center, Clinic and Senior Care.

Northwest Iowa — One new death and 57 new COVID cases were reported in the four northwesternmost Iowa counties on Wednesday, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

The death that was reported was again, an O’Brien County resident. Sixty-four people have died in the four counties since the pandemic started — Sioux County has had twenty-five. O’Brien County has now had 30. Osceola County has had one death. Lyon County has had eight since the pandemic started.

O’Brien County was up 15 cases Wednesday, at 1214 cases since the pandemic started. Sioux County was up 23 cases at 3582. Lyon County was up 16 cases at 988, and Osceola County was up 3 at 504. An average of about one in every 11 northwest Iowans in our area has had — or currently has — COVID-19.

Out of the 988 Lyon County residents who have had COVID-19, 561 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 57%.
Out of the 3582 Sioux County residents who have had COVID-19, 2527 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 71%.
Out of the 1214 O’Brien County residents who have had COVID-19, 725 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 60%.
Out of the 504 Osceola County residents who have had COVID-19, 305 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 61%.

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

Iowa counties:
Plymouth 2627, up 14
Cherokee 791, up 17
Buena Vista 2962, up 36
Clay 1102, up 15
Dickinson 1285, unchanged

Statewide Iowa — 170 state hospital leaders are urging Iowans to follow public health recommendations to slow the spread of COVID-19.

A joint statement released by the Iowa Hospital Association’s physician leadership group and the Organization for Nursing Leadership asks Iowans to avoid crowds, stay home when sick and wear a mask. Dr. Michael McCoy, chief medical officer with Great River Health in West Burlington, says his hospital’s biggest challenge has been finding enough staff to take care of COVID patients.

(As above) McCoy says, “We’ve already stopped doing a lot of our elective surgeries, almost all of them, not because of beds, but because of — we needed to pull staff from that area.”

McCoy says 97 hospital employees were out Monday because they were either sick with the virus or needed to quarantine. Rates of new COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations have more than doubled in the past month. Dr. Tammy Chance, at the Boone County Hospital, says her goal this past summer was to get people to follow precautions so they could spend the holidays with family.

(As above) Chance says, “I know this sounds morbid, but now my goal is to get people to take this seriously, so they don’t have an extra grave to visit of a close friend or loved one come next Memorial Day.”

Chance says there were a few days last week when her region nearly ran out of ICU beds, and her hospital has faced critical staffing shortages related to the virus. As of Wednesday, more than 1,300 Iowans were hospitalized with the virus, with nearly 270 in ICUs. Some 200 patients were hospitalized for the virus statewide in the past 24 hours.

November 24, 2020 - 4:27 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — It’s that time of year again. Many of us are considering which lights and decorations to put out or purchase to make our homes more festive for the Christmas holiday period. The weather couldn’t be better — but there are some safety considerations to keep in mind.

We talked to Orange City Fire Chief Denny Vander Wel, and he says while new technology means fewer fire hazards, that should not lull us into a state of complacency.

(as said:) “Most lights that you buy today are LED and they don’t have the heat factor like the old… You know, when I was growing up we used to have the old bubble lights everything else, but then they got super hot! And there again a lot of people do not use live trees anymore, which makes a big difference but there are still some that… the tradition is there… we need a live tree. And there again, there’s people that sell them and they’re probably going to have  some type of instructions on stuff and watching your needles and making sure that they have plenty of water and so on and so forth.”

He says the lights that you buy should say how many strings you can put together.

(as said:)”It’ll say on the box, ‘Don’t plug in more than maybe two or three strings.’ You know, they have that end-to-end plug and don’t be plugging like ten strings in a row in there even if they’re LED because this can cause some problems. If you use an extension cord make sure it’s a good quality extension cord not something really lightweight… just for safety precautions. The more that we do to prevent, the better the outcome is. Just people… use common sense. Read the instructions.”

Fire safety experts also suggest that if you are using old Christmas lights, maybe consider replacing them with a string of new LED lights, if not for the energy efficiency, then for the safety factor. They also suggest not running extension cords for outdoor lighting if you can avoid them, and especially not to run them across sidewalks as they can be a hazard for walking or snow removal.

Sioux Center, Iowa — Word comes to us from Dordt University in Sioux Center that their loan default rate is significantly better than the national average.

They say the student loan default rate measures the percentage of students who are unable to make the required payments on their student loans. Dordt University’s loan default rate is 1.8 percent, which is significantly better than the national average of 9.7 percent. Dordt officials say their low loan default rate shows that Dordt students who take out student loans to pay for their college education are very likely to repay the loan on time.

Harlan Harmelink, Dordt’s director of financial aid says there are many reasons why Dordt students are able to make their loan payments on time. He says Dordt has a very competitive level of indebtedness at graduation.

The last two years, the average debt load for Dordt students has been approximately $22,500, according to Dordt officials, who say that many families find this to be encouraging when analyzing the financial commitment for Dordt’s approximately $43,000 in room and board per year.

Harmelink also credits Dordt’s career outcome rate, which was 99 percent for the class of 2019.

Finally, Dordt officials say their students learn a sense of fiscal responsibility from both their families and time at Dordt. Dordt seeks to help students develop skills and traits beyond just their academics, looking at all areas of life.

November 24, 2020 - 3:58 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — After a one-day reprieve, daily coronavirus cases are up again. Ninety new COVID cases were reported in the four northwesternmost Iowa counties on Tuesday, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

O’Brien County was up 14 cases, at 1199 cases since the pandemic started. Sioux County was up 48 cases at 3559. Lyon County was up 21 cases at 972, and Osceola County was up 7 at 501. An average of about one in every 11 northwest Iowans in our area has had — or currently has — COVID-19.

Sixty-three people have died in the four counties since the pandemic started — Sioux County has had twenty-five. O’Brien County has now had 29. Osceola County has had one death. Lyon County has had eight since the pandemic started.

Out of the 972 Lyon County residents who have had COVID-19, 553 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 57%.
Out of the 3559 Sioux County residents who have had COVID-19, 2489 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 70%.
Out of the 1199 O’Brien County residents who have had COVID-19, 696 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 58%.
Out of the 501 Osceola County residents who have had COVID-19, 298 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 59%.

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

Iowa counties:
Plymouth 2613, up 26
Cherokee 774, up 18
Buena Vista 2926, up 24
Clay 1048, up 39
Dickinson 1285, up 13

November 24, 2020 - 3:25 pm - Posted in News

Orange City, Iowa — Work continues toward a new MOC/Floyd Valley Elementary School building between Alton and Orange City on Highway 10.

We talked to MOC/Floyd Valley superintendent Russ Adams, who gives us an update.

(as said:) “We’ve had a great fall for preparing. Lieber Construction has been doing a lot of work out at the new site. In fact, we actually… because of the weather… were able to get a little further than we had thought. I think our construction management firm Klinger Construction as Chad said we are into the gravy period we’ve accomplished everything that we had hoped to accomplish before the snow flies and we’ll have gone a little further. So every day is a benefit now, so we’re real happy with that. The big thing that we accomplished was carving out the footprint of the building. The idea behind that if you get that all carved out and compacted and everything and then it can drain and be shaped again a little bit more over the winter months and hopefully be prepared for building right away in the spring.”

He gives us an idea of the timeline for the project.

(as said:)”We let out the first bid package and Lieber Construction won that package and is doing the excavation work and we’ll have another bid package it’ll go out after the first of the year, but that will be for some of the precast materials and then once the spring hits and we’re able to actually start construction, we’ll get going on that and frankly it builds over and we would occupy the new building in the summer of 2023 so that we can start the 2023 school year in the new building.

Funds for the project come from a school bond that was approved in March.

(as said:) “The bond vote was for 37 million dollars and that is primarily for the elementary building. They’ll be a little bit of that is focused on maybe a little bit of expansion at the high school as far as some classrooms and improving our special education area and office areas, but the vast majority is for the elementary school. And again that we passed that bond vote or bond issue on March 3rd, obviously just before the pandemic really took hold so we were thankful for the timing of the opportunity.”

Again, Adams says they hope to start the autumn 2023 semester in the new building.

November 24, 2020 - 3:05 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — Less than a week ago we reported that there were four nursing homes in the four-county KIWA listening area that had COVID-19 outbreaks among the residents. The news has not gotten better since then. Tuesday, the state coronavirus website reports that number has risen to seven.

Also on Tuesday, state officials report there are COVID outbreaks at a total of 147 Iowa nursing homes, with more than 46-hundred residents testing positive for the virus. With holidays ahead, Governor Kim Reynolds says her state agencies are reviewing federal guidelines for visitation policies with nursing home managers.

(As above) “While the numbers are increasing and the number of facilities are moving into outbreak status, it also gives us a heads up on how we can get in front of that and, hopefully, avoid some of the horrible outcomes that we know happen with this vulnerable population,” Reynolds says.

Statewide test results in the past week have confirmed more than 16–thousand-six-hundred Iowans have the virus.

(As above) “While these numbers are not where we need them to be, they are lower than they were the week prior, when nearly 28,000 new cases and a positivity rate of more than 24% was reported,” Reynolds says.

About one in five of those who tested positive for Covid last week in Iowa were adults under the age of 30, but Reynolds says the infection rate is fairly well distributed among age groups. That’s what complicates the nursing home outbreaks, according to the governor and others, as the progressive spread of the virus in communities reaches into nursing homes.

(As above) “We’re continuing to look at the number of the tests to make sure that all of the facilities have the capacity to test,” Reynolds says.

Federal officials have recommended testing nursing home residents weekly, but that goal has not yet been met in Iowa. Five days ago, about one out of five Iowa nursing homes were listed on the state website as having outbreaks. Now, outbreaks are identified at one out of three.

(As above) “While it’s hard and we have more facilities moving into outbreak status, it also allows us to really identify a potential outbreak sooner rather than later,” Reynolds says, “and we can start isolating and making sure that we’re protecting the others that haven’t tested positive.” 

Iowa nursing homes with a confirmed outbreak are able to request masks and other personal protective equipment from the state’s stockpile. Reynolds says state officials are working to train nursing home staff to ensure they are using the PPE appropriately. According to the state website tracking COVID-related data, more than a thousand Iowa nursing home residents have died after contracting the virus.

Here in our four-county area, the state coronavirus website shows outbreaks at three facilities in Lyon County, two in O’Brien County and one each in Osceola and Sioux Counties.

November 24, 2020 - 2:45 pm - Posted in News

Rock Valley, Iowa — The Rock Valley Fire Department was called out for a fire on Monday, November 23, 2020, near Rock Valley.

According to Rock Valley Fire Chief Brent Eshuis, about 5:45 p.m., the Rock Valley Fire Department was called to the report of a shop fire at 3278 Elmwood Avenue, about a mile south of Rock Valley.

The chief says the fire department saw a small fire on the roof with a little on the north wall as well as they approached the scene.

He says the fire was on the outside of a run-down old building. He tells us there was a wire from an electric pole right by the building, which went through some trees. He says the tree branches had been rubbing the wire for quite some time and finally wore through. He says sparks from the short circuit landed on the shop’s old wood roof and started the fire.

Eshuis says no injuries were reported.

He says the Hull fire department always responds to structure fire calls in Rock Valley’s district, along with Rock Valley firefighters, plus, he had asked for the Sioux Center Fire Department to respond as well, before he knew what they were dealing with. But once they saw that it was a small fire, he says he told both other communities’ firefighters that they could disregard the call.

Chief Eshuis reports that there was minimal damage to the building, which he says is still standing.

He says the firefighters who responded were on the scene for about half an hour.

November 24, 2020 - 10:40 am - Posted in News

Western Iowa — While there have been scattered showers, parts of Iowa have had very little rain since mid-summer and the continued dry weather is drawing down soil moisture levels.

State climatologist Justin Glisan says while drought conditions are lessening in some areas, they’re worsening elsewhere, as much of Iowa’s western third is now in moderate to severe drought.

(as said) “Subsoil conditions across much of the region show a below-normal percentile,” Glisan says. “Recent warm and windy days produced higher evaporate demand in the atmosphere, so the atmosphere is thirsty, especially for this time of year, those conditions allow for extraction of any subsoil moisture or surface moisture that we see.”

We’re heading into a drier time of year, so Glisan says it will be difficult to recharge soil moisture levels before spring.

(as said) “With a lack of precipitation, this makes rainfall infiltration when we do get it harder to get down deep,” he says.

Glisan says that lack of soil moisture may bring some help to Iowa’s farmers in the spring.

(as said) “The silver lining here is that moving into the growing season, drier-than-normal conditions will make fieldwork and planting easier,” Glisan says. “If you go back, the last two or three years, we’ve had pretty wet conditions going into the growing season with record subsoil moisture which delayed planting.”

Conditions could change within a matter of several weeks, as Glisan says the trends point to above-normal precipitation for January through March.