May 21, 2020 - 3:25 pm - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa — Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds announced Thursday that the “Test Iowa” screenings for COVID-19 will be open to anyone who wants a test.

(As above) “Later today, we’ll be opening the criteria so that anyone who thinks they should be tested can be,” Reynolds said late this morning. “This is especially important as more Iowans return to work, so if you’re interested in being tested, please go to www.TestIowa.com and take the assessment, so this change will be effective by the end of the day.” 

There are currently eight “Test Iowa” locations in Iowa and testing had been limited to people with symptoms or who’d been around someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19, as well as Iowans with so-called “essential” jobs in health care settings or manufacturing and meat packing plants.

(As above) “More than 3000 Iowans have been tested at ‘Test Iowa’ sites since Monday and more than 700 appointments are already scheduled for today,” Reynolds says.

When Reynolds announced the Test Iowa program in April, she said it would expand the state’s testing capacity by three-thousand tests per day and it has yet to reach that target. Reynolds says the Test Iowa program currently has enough kits to test 200-thousand people, but it’s not clear how Test Iowa appointments will be prioritized and scheduled now that anyone who wants a test can register for one.

(As above) “You know, we’re going to learn as we ramp up and continue to offer this opportunity to more Iowans,” Reynolds says. “There’s going to be some bumps in the road, but that’s to be expected.” 

The governor hinted that more testing sites will be established.

(As above) “We’ll be announcing next week, early next week another phase that will be opening up that will provide Iowans access to testing,” she says.

The Governor made her comments during her daily press conference late Thursday morning.

Northwest Iowa — The four northwesternmost Iowa counties have seen a net increase of 31 cases of COVID-19 in the 24-hour period ending at noon on Thursday, according to the latest statistics from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Lyon County reported one more case, for a total of 20. Sioux County is up twenty-seven cases at 180. O’Brien County is up two at 23. And Osceola County is up one for a total of 30.

Again, these numbers are raw numbers and do not take into account how many people have recovered.

No deaths from COVID-19 have been reported in these counties.

Due to extensive testing in Sioux County, the density of cases in that county has surpassed the density of cases in Osceola County. Sioux County is now at 516 cases per 100,000, and Osceola is at 497 per 100,000. The other two counties in our area are in the 160s for density.

Total numbers of cases from other counties around the area and their change from the previous report (5/20/2020):

Iowa:
Plymouth 98 up 9
Cherokee 9 unchanged
Buena Vista 133 up 10
Clay 9 down 1
Dickinson 8 unchanged

Minnesota:
Jackson 36 unchanged
Nobles 1414 up 18
Rock 20 unchanged

South Dakota:
Minnehaha 3195 up 13
Lincoln 211 up 2
Union 69 up 1

Statewide Iowa — The number of initial claims in Iowa, filed between Sunday, May 10th, and Saturday, May 16th, was 13,040, according to information released by Iowa Workforce Development. There were 12,011 initial claims by individuals who work and live in Iowa, and 1,029 claims by individuals who work in Iowa and live in another state.

The number of continuing weekly unemployment claims was 187,375.

Unemployment insurance benefit payments totaled $50,962,509.01 for the same week.

The industries with the most claims during the period were: Manufacturing (4,679); Self-employed, Independent Contractors, etc. (1,251); Health Care & Social Assistance (1,216); Retail Trade (827); and Accommodation & Food Services (785).

A total of $106,809,600 in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) benefits was paid during the week of May 10th-16th. Since April 4th, a total of $651,345,000 in benefits has been paid. That’s down about a million dollars from the May 3rd through 9th total of $7,589,384.85.

Employees and employers who have questions regarding returning to work should review the Frequently Asked Questions for each group on the IWD website.  They have recently updated these questions regarding the various scenarios as businesses reopen and employees are recalled.  Employers should visit https://www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/sites/search.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/files/content-files/FAQs%20Employers%2005.0520.pdf

Employees can find answers at https://www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/sites/search.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/files/content-files/FAQs%20Workers%2005.18.20.pdf

For more information on the total data for this week’s unemployment claims, please visit  https://www.iowalmi.gov/unemployment-insurance-statistics

Hudson, South Dakota — The motorcycle driver and his passenger were both injured Tuesday night when the motorcycle they were riding collided with a deer in far western Sioux County.

According to a report from the Sioux County Sheriff’s Office, the crash occurred two miles east of Hudson, South Dakota on 360th Street, on the Iowa side of the state line.

Deputies say 25-year-old Bradley Kleinhesselink of Alton was eastbound on 360th Street, on a 2007 Harley-Davidson motorcycle, when he struck a deer on the roadway.

Kleinhesselink and a passenger were both transported by ambulance services from Hudson and Rock Valley to the Hegg Health Center in Rock Valley for treatment of their injuries, according to authorities.

Deputies estimate damage to Kleinhesselink’s Harley at approximately $3,000.

Statewide Iowa — State officials will start identifying child care centers where there are outbreaks of COVID-19.

Iowa Department of Human Services director Kelly Garcia says new guidelines require child care providers to report positive cases of the virus among children and staff.

(As above) “We’re balancing both the public health aspects and the overall well-being of children,” Garcia says. ” We also know how important is acceptable child care is to help parents return to work or continue to work.”

On May 15, the state’s criteria for qualifying for a COVID-19 test was changed, so children who go to child care and child care center employees may get tested if they had coronavirus symptoms that were not diagnosed as something else. Garcia says once an outbreak is identified, a child care provider will be asked to close anywhere from two days to up to two weeks, depending on the number of children who are enrolled.

(As above) “We will work closely with (the Iowa Department of Public Health) to determine the appropriate time frame and to ensure robust hygiene and cleaning before any reopening occurs,” Garcia says. “We will ensure all staff and children have access to testing.”

Eight weeks ago, state officials required parents to drop their children off without entering facilities and all kids in child care must have their temperatures taken every morning to ensure those with a fever go home.

(As above) “Over the past few months, we’ve worked to equip our child care providers with disinfectant and thermometers. This isn’t a role we typically fulfill, but it was absolutely the right thing to do,” Garcia says. “We’re providing financial support to ensure child care providers are able to close and deep clean, should they need to, and we’re providing them additional financial support because we know that there was a child care shortage in Iowa before the pandemic and we need to ensure access to child care long after the pandemic is over.”

Child care centers were not among the businesses Governor Kim Reynolds ordered to close in March. The governor said essential workers need child care services to continue operating, so they could continue to work.

Garcia says later this week her agency will issue new guidance for how summer camps should operate during the pandemic.

Statewide Iowa — Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate is distributing half a million dollars in federal grant money to county auditors, to help with the expense of safety measures for the June 2nd Primary.

Pate, who is chairman of the National Association of Secretaries of State, says all states were offered this kind of federal financial support for primaries.

(As above) “We did ask them to waive the match. You know, they sent this money to the state and said: ‘Oh, by the way, there’s a 20% match,'” Pate says. “Well, most state legislatures have adjourned, so how do you get the match to be able to draw the money to use it for the election? Fortunately, most states have figured out ways to deal with that.” 

Pate has redirected money in his office budget to come up with the state “matching” funds needed to qualify for the federal grants. Last week, Iowa National Guard soldiers delivered masks, gloves and hand sanitizer for use at polling places on June 2nd. Pate’s office has also sent social distancing markers and face shields to all 99 counties for use at the polls. Pate has encouraged Iowans to vote early, with an absentee ballot, but those who wish may still vote at a polling place on June 2nd.

(As above) “Iowans like choices,” Pate says. “They want to choose whether they can vote in person at a polling location, they want to know if they can vote absentee or at the courthouse or curbside and that’s my job to make sure they have those.”

Pate cautions, though, that with fewer Primary Day polling places and all the public health precautions of the pandemic, like fewer voting booths at each location, it will take longer than five minutes to vote.

Northwest Iowa — The four northwesternmost Iowa counties have seen a net increase of two cases of COVID-19 in the 24-hour period ending at noon on Wednesday, according to the latest statistics from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Lyon County actually reported one less case, for a total of 19. Sioux County is up three cases at 153. O’Brien County is unchanged at 21. And Osceola County also reports no additional, cases for a total of 29.

Again, these numbers are raw numbers and do not take into account how many people have recovered.

No deaths from COVID-19 have been reported in these counties.

Total numbers of cases from other counties around the area and their change from the previous report (5/19/2020):

Iowa:
Plymouth 89 unchanged
Cherokee 9 unchanged
Buena Vista 123 up 2
Clay 10 up 1
Dickinson 8 up 1

Minnesota:
Jackson 36 unchanged
Nobles 1396 up 2
Rock 20 unchanged

South Dakota:
Minnehaha 3182 up 17
Lincoln 209 up 4
Union 68 up 6

Statewide Iowa — Governor Kim Reynolds is moving up the reopening of another list of Iowa businesses that were to remain closed through next Wednesday, allowing them to open their doors instead for the holiday weekend ahead.

(As above) “Today I am announcing that, effective on Friday, movie theaters, zoos, aquariums, museums and wedding reception venues will be permitted to reopen with appropriate public health measures in place.”

Swimming pools will be able to open for laps and lessons, while the Iowa DNR is opening all restrooms and showers at the state’s parks. The governor says bars and other establishments that sell alcohol will be able to open NEXT Thursday at 50-percent capacity.

(As above) “And effective June first, Iowa schools will be permitted to resume school sponsored activities and learning, according to the appropriate public health precautions. This will include high school baseball and softball activities.”

The governor promises more details on that Thursday, when she’s joined by the director of the state department of education.

 

Statewide Iowa — Gasoline prices in Iowa are averaging almost a dollar lower than last year, but it won’t be enough to lure most of us to take a road trip for Memorial Day weekend.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Rose White, at Triple-A-Iowa, says the motor club isn’t releasing a holiday weekend travel forecast for the first time in 20 years.

(As above) “Last year, 43-million Americans traveled for the holiday weekend, it was the second-highest travel volume on record since we began tracking information,” White says, “but with social distancing guidelines still in practice, this holiday weekend’s travel volume is likely to set a record low.” 

Travel Iowa ran a full page ad in some newspapers last week featuring a couple on a deck overlooking a wide vista of green hills with just four words — “Dream Now, Visit Later.” White says many Iowa families will be doing exactly that.

(As above) “We anticipate that people are going to hold back. For those who maybe had planned a long-distance, maybe an overseas vacation, they’ll likely revert to a local or regional destination,” White says. “We do anticipate as the states relax their laws and regulations pertaining to social distancing, more people will travel, but it will be a slow recovery.” 

In recent weeks, highway travel in the state was said to be down 44-percent from normal, according to the Iowa D-O-T, but over Mother’s Day weekend, the numbers crept up to 75-percent of normal. Even with that increase, Triple-A is still expecting a potential record low for travel this coming weekend.

(As above) “The CDC does still recommend that Americans stay home and avoid non-essential travel, but if you do travel this holiday weekend, we do advise you to pack essentials, especially those toiletries that might be needed at rest stops,” White says, “and also, anticipate early closures of restaurants.” 

Gasoline is averaging $1.75 a gallon in Iowa, that’s 13-cents below the national average. A year ago, gas prices in Iowa were averaging $2.67. Here in northwest Iowa, in the past few days gas has been selling within a few cents of $1.79 a gallon.

The last time the average national gas price leading into the Memorial Day holiday was under $2.00 a gallon was 17 years ago, in 2003.

May 19, 2020 - 12:13 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — The inaugural edition of a new cross-state bicycle ride, Iowa’s Ride 2020, was forced to cancel due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the ride WILL take place in 2021, and has organizers have announced the route it will take.

According to Iowa’s Ride Director TJ Juskiewicz, the ride will begin in Dubuque, and wrap up in Rock Rapids….exactly the same as had been planned for this year. Riders will gather in Dubuque on Saturday, July 17th, and leave Sunday morning, the 18th, for Monticello, where they’ll spend Sunday night. Monday’s route leads to Vinton, where riders and support staff will spend the night. Then on Tuesday, July 20th, the group will ride to Eldora, and spend the night in that city. On Wednesday, July 21st, Clarion is the riders’ destination and overnight stop, then Thursday they’ll head for Emmetsburg, and spend the night in that Palo Alto County town. Friday morning, riders will pedal from Emmetsburg to Sheldon, where they’ll spend their Friday night before heading to the final stop, Rock Rapids, on Saturday, July 24th.

Juskiewicz says this semi-supported ride will be FREE for everyone that was originally registered to ride on Iowa’s Ride this summer.  He says the purpose of the journey is simple: support Iowa’s small towns and their businesses, which they were unable to do this summer due to COVID-19.

He says he received hundreds of personal emails after being forced to cancel Iowa’s Ride 2020, from people throughout the world. He says there were, what he called, “several good friends and some generous folks” that asked to put the refund of their 2020 registration fees towards “something good.” Juskiewicz says each overnight town will have one main campground for primitive camping at no cost to set up your tents or park your RV.  He says Iowa’s Ride will provide a complimentary baggage truck to throw a bag on each morning that will be moved to the next town.  Riders will have the ability to buy a shower from a high school, the city pool or a shower truck.  There will be a few bike mechanics on the route to help repair bikes and sell parts riders might need.

While there is that support, he says there will not be sag service and the route will not be marked for turns.  Don’t expect law enforcement at every crossing waving you through.  You will have route maps that you can print off or download to your bike computer or smart phone.  The daily rides will be minimally supported, so you must be prepared to be self-supportive.    But we all know that people will stop to help their fellow cyclists along the way.

Juskiewicz says there will be no charge to register for Iowa’s Ride 2021, and details will be coming soon.