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

Sioux County had an increase of four for a total of 287. Lyon is unchanged at 24. O’Brien is up three at 33. Osceola County is up one case at 34.

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

Total numbers of cases from other counties around the area and their change from the previous report (6/2/2020):

Iowa counties:
Plymouth 135, up 2
Cherokee 32, up 1
Buena Vista 852, up 42
Clay 18, up 1
Dickinson 25, up 4

Minnesota counties:
Jackson 40, up 1
Nobles 1552, up 8
Rock 22, unchanged

South Dakota counties:
Minnehaha 3362, up 7
Lincoln 239, up 1
Union 91, unchanged

In order to give you an idea of the density of cases, here are some selected numbers adjusted for population — given the number of cases actually in a county — the following are the numbers of cases there would be if the population of the county were 100,000 residents. But keep in mind, that these numbers include people who have had COVID-19, and have since recovered.

As far as regional hot spots, while the Smithfield plant in Sioux Falls was a national hot spot, as far as density of cases, Nobles County, Minnesota now tops the list with a density of 7176 per 100,000. Next is Buena Vista County with 4287. Next is Woodbury County with 2717, and then Minnehaha County, South Dakota with 1740.

In the four northwesternmost Iowa counties, Sioux County tops the density list at 822 per 100,000. Osceola is next with 563. Next is O’Brien County with 238, and Lyon County reports a density of 203.

Statewide Iowa — As state lawmakers return to Des Moines Wednesday, their primary objective is to hammer out a state budget.

Governor Kim Reynolds says the picture is more clear now on the impact of coronavirus on Iowa’s economy, after the state Revenue Estimating Conference met last Friday.

(As above) “They’re estimating a reduction in State revenue in Fiscal Year 21, of 0.8%, or $65-million.”

While that figure is “sharply different” from a few months ago, the governor says it’s “manageable.” She says state government is in a solid position with its cash reserves.

Sibley, Iowa — A Worthington man, who was electrocuted while working an a construction project in Sibley in 2018, has filed a negligence lawsuit against the City of Sibley.

According to documents filed in Osceola County, Victor Maldonado was part of a renovation crew that was working on a building in downtown Sibley, on September 26, 2018. During the project, Maldonado was lowering an aluminum down spout to connect to the building’s gutter, when the down spout came in contact with an electrical line that sent a current through the down spout and Maldonado’s body causing, according to the lawsuit, devastating electrical burn injuries, and causing Maldonado to fall off the building’s roof, about 20 feet to the alley below, causing severe injuries.

Maldonado’s lawsuit accuses the City of Sibley of negligence for allegedly failing to keep the electrical line a required minimum distance from the building. As a result, Maldonado asserts the City of Sibley knew, or should have known, that a serious injury would result.

Maldonado’s suit says he suffered “severe burns, facial and cranial fractures, brain injury, loss of function in limbs, blindness in one eye and other injuries.” Maldonado’s wife, Lidia Ochoa, who is also listed in the filing as his “Guardian”, is also a plaintiff in the action.

The suit asks for unspecified damages, and Maldonado has demanded a jury hear the case.

June 2, 2020 - 1:28 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — (RI) –The majority of votes for Tuesday’s Primary Election have already been cast by absentee ballot — and there’s been a huge shift in party affiliation.

For the first time in years, independent or “no party” voters are no longer the largest voting block in the state. Independents have dropped to third behind Democrats and Republicans. Secretary of State Paul Pate is the state’s commissioner of elections.

(as said) “I’m sure a lot of people will be analyzing this one to figure it all out, but it was pretty even,” Pate says. “Republicans increased by about 36,000 and the Democrats increased by about 31,000 of new registered voters.”

In the fourth congressional district, where Congressman Steve King faces a primary challenge, more than 12-thousand residents joined the ranks of Republicans in order to vote in the primary. In the third congressional district, Democrats gained nine-thousand and Republicans 85-hundred. In the second district, where Republicans have a competitive congressional primary, Republican voter rolls grew by more than nine-thousand. And, in the first congressional district, Republicans gained 11-thousand-seven hundred and Democrats gained 12-thousand voters.

By Monday morning, 77 percent of the absentee ballots requested had been received by county auditors. That’s nearly 376-thousand ballots — and more are expected to be delivered today (Tuesday) as some voters waited until Monday to mail their ballot in.

(as said) “Definitely a record breaker,” Pate says.

Iowans who got an absentee ballot but failed to fill it out and mail it on time have two options. They can fill it out and drop it off at their county auditor’s office before 9 p.m. OR they can take the unused ballot to their voting precinct, hand it over to a poll worker, and get a new ballot to vote at the precinct.

DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Department of Education announced on Monday the state has received$26.2 million in federal relief to ensure education continues for students of all ages impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Iowa’s grant is part of the nearly $3 billion Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The GEER fund allows governors to determine how to best meet the needs of students in public and non-public schools, postsecondary institutions, and other education-related organizations.

Better enabling remote learning for K-12 and postsecondary students is the goal of Iowa’s GEER application. It focuses on providing and expanding broadband access and improving access to technology in other ways. That could include providing Wi-Fi hotspots and devices. Funding also may be used to offer professional development related to remote learning to educators in school districts and non-public schools as well as in public and private colleges and universities.

Governor Kim Reynolds states that rapidly expanding and improving broadband access is essential for our state’s future. As we have seen with a pandemic and an ever-changing economy, learning must continue beyond the classroom. These resources will equip Iowa schools and educators to pave a pathway for student success in the growing digital classroom and future workplace.

Iowa Department of Education Director Ann Lebo reiterates that superintendents said better connectivity is what they need most to provide high-quality learning for all students during the pandemic. They have students without access to the technology they need and Iowa’s GEER grant is an important step toward solving that problem. He continues that he is proud of the work school leaders and teachers are doing, and that they can help support it in this way.

The Iowa Department of Education in collaboration with the State Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) is conducting a statewide survey regarding barriers Iowans face to remote learning, including broadband access. The household survey targets families with K-12 students but also asks about college students. The intent is to prioritize areas of the state with the greatest need based on the survey results.

These GEER funds are in addition to the $71.6 million Iowa received in federal relief for PK-12 schools through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund within the CARES Act.

The Iowa Department of Education will provide more information soon about how the GEER funding will be allocated.

Statewide Iowa — (RI) — For the first time in months, Iowa’s economic numbers improved during May along with that of the Midwest, but the state and region are still struggling under fallout from the pandemic.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says the monthly survey of business owners and supply managers in Iowa and eight other states shows promise, though there’s still a long way to go toward recovery.

(As above) “The recession is principally right now focused on the consumer portion of the economy,” Goss says. “The manufacturing sector, not as much, although the manufacturing sector is certainly in a recession.”

Iowa’s Business Conditions Index, or the overall index, was still below the growth neutral point of 50 on a zero-to-100 scale. It rose to a weak 41.9 in May from 34.4 in April, according to Goss. Iowa’s unemployment rate had been among the lowest in the country until the coronavirus, but now, jobless numbers statewide are approaching 200-thousand. For the region, Goss says the job index remains well below the “growth neutral” point of 50 on the scale, but it’s starting to rebound.

(As above) “The overall index, ranging between zero and 100, the May number was at 40.0 and that’s up from April’s 26.2,” Goss says. “April’s reading was a record low.”

Joblessness is its worst in Iowa and nationwide since the Great Depression, Goss says, far worse than the most recent recession of 2008-2009. A vast amount of the people who are able to continue working are no longer leaving their houses for their jobs.

(As above) “We asked the supply managers about working from home and 62.5%, almost two thirds, indicated they were moving activities to the home from their office,” Goss says. “We’re seeing that, even in manufacturing, so that’s quite a change from what we saw in previous months.”

Iowa’s unemployment rate — not seasonally adjusted — jumped from 3.6% in March to 10.7% in April. Goss says the state lost 177,000 jobs during the one-month COVID-19 span.

Northwest Iowa — We may, or may not, know the winners of today’s (Tuesday, June 2nd) primary elections for the 4th District House, and U.S. Senate seats. That’s because at least one candidate must garner 35% of the primary vote in order to be declared the winner.

In Iowa’s 4th U.S. Congressional District, Republican incumbent Steve King is embroiled in a heated five-way primary race with challengers Randy Feenstra, Bret Richards, Steve Reeder and Jeremy Taylor. JD Scholten, who lost to King in 2018 by a mere 3 percentage points, is the lone candidate on the Democrat ballot. He’ll face the winner of the five-way Republican race this November.

In the United States Senate, Iowa’s junior Senator, Joni Ernst, is up for re-election this fall. And while Ernst is running unopposed in the Republican Primary, Democrat voters will be selecting from five candidates who desire to face her in the General election. Democrats will choose from Admiral Michael Franken, Kimberly Graham, Theresa Greenfield, Eddie Mauro and Cal Woods. Woods had earlier suspended his campaign, but his name still appears on the sample ballots seen by KIWA.

In both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate primaries, a candidate must receive at least 35% of the vote to be declared the winner, according to O’Brien County Auditor Barb Rohwer. Should no candidate reach the 35% mark, the race will be decided later this summer by the delegates to the individual party’s District Conventions.

June 2, 2020 - 11:15 am - Posted in News

Des Moines, Iowa — Governor Kim Reynolds says the peaceful protests in Iowa this weekend had a powerful message, but she’s condemning the few who resorted to rioting.

Reynolds says the curfew in Iowa’s Capital City seems to have worked to diffuse violence. She supports continuing the curfews in Polk County, Scott County and Council Bluffs as law enforcement figures out who may be instigating riots here.

(as said) “You don’t come to a peaceful protest with bricks and hammers in your backpack,” Reynolds says, “and so until we get figured out who’s doing that, get it identified and really do every we can to give Iowans the opportunity to peacefully protest, that’s our goal.”

Windows were broken during rioting in downtown Des Moines on Friday night and things escalated 24 hours later, as 90 percent of the businesses in the Court Avenue Entertainment District in Des Moines suffered property damage and a grocery store was looted. Reynolds says she, along with key Polk County leaders met to discuss their options for a couple of hours before issuing the overnight curfew on Sunday.

(as said) “It wasn’t something that we came to the table wanting to do,” Reynolds says. “It was something we felt that was necessary to control the violence and the looting that we heard was about to take place across this state and that is unacceptable.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa argues a county-wide, stay-at-home order is far broader than necessary and gives police too much discretion in enforcing the curfew. Davenport’s curfew was announced early Monday morning after two people were shot to death and a police officer was wounded in overnight rioting. Davenport’s mayor has asked for Iowa National Guard troops. An aide to the governor says Iowa National Guard troops have not been assigned, but could be deployed within hours in Davenport, where the Guard has an armory.

Statewide Iowa — (RI) — Iowa’s two U-S senators are asking the Food and Drug Administration to clarify its policies on making alcohol-based hand sanitizer during the pandemic.

Iowa ethanol producers were initially given the go ahead to use some of their ingredients to make sanitizer, but Senator Chuck Grassley says the F-D-A later changed its guidelines. Now, it’s unclear if ethanol can be used in the process.

(As above) “Ernst and I want clarification from FDA so that people that are involved in this good faith effort to help out during the pandemic,” Grassley says. “I’d suggest they can’t be making much money at it, just a good faith effort.”

Ethanol producers got involved with the sanitizer to both provide a valuable commodity during the health crisis and also to have a marketable product, since fuel sales dropped dramatically with so many people staying home. Grassley says the F-D-A’s revision of guidelines left many in the industry mystified about what standards need to be met for hand sanitizer.

(As above) “We’re in a situation where there’s questionable activity going on but that nobody has ill intent,” Grassley says. “We’re trying to clarify things so that people can continue to do their good work in good faith and not get in trouble for it.”

As the economy slowly reopens, Grassley notes the need will continue to grow for hand sanitizer at schools, restaurants, churches, factories, and other locations. Iowa is the nation’s number-one biofuel producer with 43 ethanol plants and 11 biodiesel plants supporting 43,000 jobs throughout the state’s economy.

Statewide Iowa — (RI) — The coronavirus pandemic has hit farmers hard this spring, but Iowa Ag Secretary Mike Naig says the one thing it hasn’t hurt is planting.

(As above) “The crop side of things has truly been a bright spot for Iowa agriculture this year — especially after the last couple of years after very challenging springs — wet springs, flooding,” Naig says. 

The U-S-D-A crop report shows less than ten percent of corn and beans remained to be planted heading into last week. Naig says the weather conditions played out perfectly.

(As above) “This year we had a really nice window open up at the end of April. Mother Nature cooperated just perfectly and we saw a record pace of getting corn and soybeans in the ground,” Naig says. “And it has just been a testament to all that it took to get that to happen in a very short time frame.”

Naig says the turnaround has been a welcome boost.

(As above) “I had to say last year all throughout the year we were several weeks behind average. This year we can say things like ‘we’re a month ahead of last year and several weeks ahead of the five-year average.’ So,
really a bright spot for our farmers,” according to Naig.

There have been a few weather issues since the planting got underway — but nothing major.

(As above) “We’ve seen some abnormally dry conditions across really from southwest Iowa up into north-central Iowa. Now, over the last ten days to two weeks we’ve seen an ample amount of rain that has come through and the crops look good,” Naig says. “We do need some heat –we do need some sun — and that will really allow things to take off.”

There were a few days where cold temperatures and frost hit after crops were starting to emerge, and that caused a little damage.

(As above) “Not widespread damage to the crops, but we do know that there was some damage to the crops and some replant that occurred. But by and large — that occurred when the crop was well-protected,” Naig says.

Last week’s crop report showed 97 percent of the corn had been planted and 92 percent of the beans.