Northwest Iowa — In the four northwestern-most Iowa counties, 7 more COVID-19 cases were reported on Tuesday, according to the latest statistics from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

O’Brien County was unchanged at 131. Sioux County was up three at 597 cases. Lyon County was up three at 103. Osceola County was up one at 78.

Less than one percent of residents of Lyon and O’Brien counties have had COVID-19 — Lyon County has nearly nine-tenths of a percent, and O’Brien has between nine-tenths and a whole percent. Stats tell us that 1.29 percent of Osceola County residents have had it, and 1.71 percent of Sioux County residents have had COVID-19. The highest density in our region is in Buena Vista County, where very close to nine percent of the population has had it.

As far as active cases, Lyon County has 17, Sioux County has 102, O’Brien County has 38, and Osceola has 12.

Recovery rate:

Lyon — out of 103 cases, 86 have recovered, for a rate of about 83%
Sioux — out of 597 cases, 493 have recovered, for a rate of about 83%
O’Brien — out of 131 cases, 92 have recovered, for a rate of about 70%
Osceola — out of 78 cases, 66 have recovered, for a rate of about 85%

Three deaths have been confirmed in these four counties: One in O’Brien County in early June, and two in Sioux County, both reported in late July.

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

Iowa counties:
Plymouth 443, unchanged
Cherokee 97, unchanged
Buena Vista 1786, up 2
Clay 171, unchanged
Dickinson 375, unchanged

These numbers reflect the period of noon Monday until noon Tuesday.

Statewide, Iowa (RI) — Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says extending the $600 per week unemployment benefit is one of the bigger sticking points in negotiations over the latest COVID-19 relief package in Congress.

While an earlier pandemic relief bill passed unanimously, compromise is slow with this one, according to Grassley, and the federal jobless payments are a key issue.

(as said) “Well, we’ve got some people that think they ought to continue $600 even to the end of 2021,” Grassley says. “Then, we’ve got some that think that at four months, with the economy turning around, that we shouldn’t do anything.”

At recent town hall meetings in Iowa, Grassley says he heard from business owners in a range of professions, including in turkey processing, ethanol production, and in physical therapy clinics. The chorus is always the same, he says, that they can’t get workers to come back as unemployment pays more than returning to the job.

(as said) Grassley says, “When you pay people more not to work than to work, and at $600, it’s about two-thirds of the unemployed people getting more not working than working, there’s not an incentive to go back to work.”

In recent weeks, a top Democrat said the extended jobless benefits didn’t need to be $600 a week, so Grassley says his fellow Republicans suggested lowering the benefit to 200-dollars, but that didn’t fly in negotiations either.

(as said) “It’s a bad government policy and we have to take some guilt for it being in place in the first place, but we wanted to help people that had dire need, but you can’t discourage people from going back to work.”

Under the plan, Grassley says the federal government is essentially “out-competing private employers for workers.” There’s also disagreement over the second round of stimulus checks to most taxpayers. Some suggested one-time checks of between $1,000 and $1,200 dollars, while Democrats suggested checks of up to$2,000 per month, but that proposal has no chance of passage.

August 4, 2020 - 9:55 am - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa — (RI) — With low temperatures Monday morning in the 40s and 50s across Iowa, it’s becoming clear that August could contain a radical shift from the extreme heat of July.

State climatologist Justin Glisan says July wrapped up on Friday being much warmer and drier than normal.

(As above) “Typically, we expect the temperature to be around 74 degrees, the average temperature for the state, and it’s looking like anywhere from two to three degrees above average, depending on where you are in the state,” Glisan says. “In terms of precipitation, the story of the month is drought conditions creeping into western Iowa.”

The latest surveys show more than half of Iowa is either in drought already or has very dry conditions, with the worst areas being in western Iowa and moving eastward.

(As above) “Typically, we expect four-and-a-half inches of rainfall across the state and there are parts of the state that only received 25% of what they normally would get in July,” Glisan says. “There are pockets in west-central Iowa that are anywhere from three to four inches below average.”

Coming out of the hotter, drier July, Glisan says August promises to be a cooler, wetter month.

(As above) “That would be an absolute gift for our drought region. We have 22 counties that are currently in D-2 drought, which is severe drought,” Glisan says. “Cooler temperatures and more rainfall would help mitigate any kind of crop stress that we’re seeing out there but it would also help improve the drought conditions that we’re seeing.”

High temperatures for the week ahead are expected to be in the 70s and low 80s with mostly dry conditions in the forecast.

Des Moines, Iowa (RI) — Three GOP members of a key committee say they plan to block state regulators from expanding their authority to turn over private property for wind energy developments.

Some Iowa counties have passed local zoning ordinances restricting where wind turbines may be placed. Critics say those restrictions would be overruled by the proposed Iowa Utilities Board rules — because if the board approves a wind farm project, eminent domain authority could be used to convert private property for the public use of renewable energy generation.

Senator Zach Whiting of Spirit Lake represents Lyon and Osceola counties, in addition to Clay, Dickinson, and Palo Alto counties. He says he has a number of concerns about the dramatic expansion of eminent domain authority the Utilities Board appears to give itself.

Private property rights and utility development have been a flashpoint for lawmakers from both parties for years. In 2006, then-Governor Tom Vilsack vetoed legislation that limited the power of local governments to seize private property for commercial development through the eminent domain process — and 87 percent of the Iowa legislature’s members voted to override that veto. A year ago, Governor Kim Reynolds said she favored local control and opposed statewide regulation of where wind turbines may be located.

Northwest Iowa — In the four northwestern-most Iowa counties, 29 more COVID-19 cases were reported over the weekend until noon Monday, according to the latest statistics from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

O’Brien County alone reported 16 more cases for a total of 131. Sioux County was up eleven at 594 cases. Lyon County was up two at an even 100. Osceola County was unchanged at 77.

Less than one percent of residents of Lyon and O’Brien counties have had COVID-19 — Lyon County has a little over eight-tenths of a percent, and O’Brien now has a little over nine-tenths of a percent. Stats tell us that 1.28 percent of Osceola County residents have had it, and 1.7 percent of Sioux County residents have had COVID-19. The highest density in our region is in Buena Vista County, where very close to nine percent of the population has had it.

As far as active cases, Lyon County has 15, Sioux County has 111, O’Brien County has 39, and Osceola has 14.

Recovery rate:

Lyon — out of 100 cases, 85 have recovered, for a rate of about 85%
Sioux — out of 594 cases, 481 have recovered, for a rate of about 81%
O’Brien — out of 131 cases, 91 have recovered, for a rate of about 69%
Osceola — out of 77 cases, 63 have recovered, for a rate of about 82%

Three deaths have been confirmed in these four counties: One in O’Brien County in early June, and two in Sioux County, both reported in late July.

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

Iowa counties:
Plymouth 443, up 9
Cherokee 97, unchanged
Buena Vista 1784, up 2
Clay 171, up 3
Dickinson 375, up 6

These numbers reflect the period of noon Friday until noon Monday.

Statewide Iowa — Three free, virtual workshops are planned over four days this week that are designed to connect beginning farmers with experienced farmers and landowners who are working toward farm succession.

Sally Worley, executive director of Practical Farmers of Iowa, says this is the group’s third annual Next Generation Summit.

(as said) Worley says. “There are a lot of aspiring farmers out there, but land is one of their biggest barriers. At the same time, there are a lot of people retiring from farming who are trying to figure out what to do to leave a legacy for their land that matches their goals.  So this series of workshops is trying to get at both of those things.

Farming is often billed as being one of the nation’s most difficult and dangerous jobs, yet many young people continue gravitating toward agriculture as a career.

(as said) “Farming isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s a lot of hard work, physically and mentally,” Worley says, “but farming is such a fulfilling career for people who are able to provide food to their communities and to care for the land.”

The first day of workshops is for farmland owners who are considering a transition, while the second day targets aspiring and beginning farmers to help them set goals, determine their farming purpose, and plan ways to acquire farmland.

(as said) “A lot of people are seeking that kind of vocation,” Worley says. “It comes with a lot of challenges but it’s also not just a day job. It’s a passion for many people.”‘

The final workshop will zero in on networking opportunities to match up aspiring farmers and landowners. Worley says the aim is to connect all the generations that make farming possible and support those from the next generation.

(as said) “This is our third year of doing this, but because of restrictions on in-person gatherings, we are doing this virtually, which brings with it some new opportunities including being able to bring in a speaker from Oregon, so we are super-excited about that and we have a lot of good, engaging things planned for these three days of workshops.”

The free workshops will be held Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Pre-registration is required. Sign up here:

August 3, 2020 - 1:33 pm - Posted in News

Statewide, Iowa — Iowa State University Extension has started a series of webinars to offer various options for those farmers facing drought conditions to consider.

Extension crop specialist, Joel De Jong, covers northwest Iowa and says they are seeing some similarities with the last drought.

(as said) “In 2012 we had quite a drought, and in 2012 by this stage of the game, we’d had about 10 inches of rainfall, so we are actually four inches behind what we saw in 2012,” according to De Jong. “But the differences are, we started with a soil that is holding a lot more water this year, probably about six inches more than we did that year, and in 2012 we had hotter days.”

The first seminar was Thursday and the second one is next Thursday, August 6th, and deals with finding animal feed.

(as said) “Pastures forages, making silage, concerns with nitrates, alternative forages, all those things that become really tough questions for cattle producers when we get short of forage. And that’s going to be the focus of the second one,” De Jong says.

The next webinar will deal with handling crops.

(as said) “Chad Hart extension economist form Iowa state is going to talk about crop marketing and things to think about under the environment we’ve got now versus the big picture of the cropping throughout the country,” De Jong says. “And then a little bit of time on crop insurance considerations. Really highlighting the fact if you have some issues you need to be in conversation with your crop insurance agents to make sure all of that is being taken care of before harvest instead of after.”

The webinars are free of charge, but pre-registration is requested. For more information about the times and topics, check the ISU Extension website by clicking here.

Des Moines, Iowa — (RI) — Physicians from around the state gathered on the Iowa Capitol steps this weekend to call on Governor Reynolds to either issue a statewide mask mandate — or at least allow local officials to require face coverings in public places.

Dr. Brian Privett, an ophthalmologist in Cedar Rapids, is president of the Iowa Medical Society.

(as said) “Our message is clear,” he says. “The benefits of wearing masks and mandating the use of masks far outweigh the downsides.”

Austin Baeth, an internal medicine doctor from Des Moines, says Iowa is one of only two states in the country without a public policy on masks.

(as said) “Iowa is on the cusp of catastrophe and we need to do everything we can do now,” he said. “…Face masks work.”

Iowa Public Health Association Lina Tucker-Reinders says too many Iowans are not wearing a mask in public.

(as said) “We, your public health and health care communities of Iowa, are calling on Governor Reynolds to do the right thing: Support a mask mandate, ideally statewide,” Tucker-Reinders said, “but minimally allowing local authorities to have local control.”

Last Thursday, Reynolds said a lot of the states with a mask mandate aren’t enforcing it.

(as said) “If you look at some of the states and the timelines that they actually issued a mandate, the cases are still rising, so you know it’s just there’s not a silver bullet,” Reynolds says. “There’s single answer.”

Reynolds says she’ll continue with a public service campaign encouraging Iowans to “mask up” as an effective way to slow the spread of Covid-19, but she says while medical professionals say mask use is effective, there are people who “would tell you just the opposite.”

Statewide Iowa — The head of the Office of Drug Control Policy and Prevention says his office is trying to gauge the impact of the coronavirus on drug use and treatment.Director Dale Woolery says he has heard some talk of problems.

(As above) “Anecdotally we hear that with the social distancing and the stay-at-home recommendations in some cases — there is a concern that some of that isolation and other factors that are related could be a breeding ground for more substance use, substance use disorder and mental health issues,” according to Woolery. 

Woolery isn’t ready to draw any conclusions yet.

(As above) “It’s too early to know if it is substantiated with the data or that we have empirical evidence. But, I do hear it anecdotally and there are some indications. I think even the C-D-C has started making reference to this,” Woolery says. 

He says his agency is keeping an eye on the situation.

(As above) “We’re actually scanning data and doing interviews to try and see what correlations there may or may not be if we can tell, between the pandemic and substance abuse disorder in Iowa,” he says, “and I know others are looking at that too. I think it’s just probably a little too early to have any definitive takeaways on that.” 

Woolery says the drug abuse treatments have changed with the restrictions brought on by the pandemic.

(As above) “You have a lot more therapy and substance use disorder treatment being provided via telehealth. There again — I think the jury is mainly out on how effective is that — and how does that compare with in-person treatment,” Woolery says.  

He says the treatment is just one of the areas where people have had to use workarounds to find a way to deliver the services during the outbreak.

(As above) “The workarounds may not be as good in some cases. In other cases they may actually be better and make it easier to attend or to access something,” Woolery says. “The effectiveness though is something I think is going to take a while to kind of figure out. How effective is the tele-whatever compared to the in-person whatever.”

Woolery says their reviews and the reviews of the data by others should give some batter answers on these questions down the road.

Osceola County, Iowa, southeast of Bigelow, MN — It seemed like it was going to be a major fire call. But that was not what they found — that from Ocheyedan Fire Chief Dan Hartwig about a call on Thursday, July 30th.

Hartwig says the call to 1124 Highway 59 went out around 10:40 a.m. The call said it was an empty hog building on fire. Hartwig tell us that the location was actually much closer to Bigelow, Minnesota — but on the Iowa side. It was about two miles east and a mile and a third south of Bigelow, or five and a half miles west and three and a half north of Ocheyedan. Sibley firefighters were paged as well.

He says when they got there, the Bigelow firefighters were already there, and the fire was out. The chief tells us that someone was doing some welding in the building, and some sparks lit the pit gas on fire and it exploded, along with some dust.

He says it wasn’t really a structure fire, it was more of a flash fire. He says no one was hurt, there were no pigs in the building at the time, and there was really no damage to speak of. He says they were only there for a few minutes to make sure nothing was smoldering or anything, and they were on their way back to the station.