March 31, 2020 - 9:36 am - Posted in News

Orange City, Iowa — And then, there were three. The Sioux County public health department, known as Sioux County Community Health Partners has announced that there are now three Sioux County residents with COVID-19.

The new case is an adult between the ages of 41 and 60. Community Health Partners says the individual is in isolation.

They are also reminding people what to do to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus to yourself and others:

*stay home if you are sick
*avoid close contact with others
*clean your hands often
*cover your coughs and sneezes
*clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces

A check of area health resources shows no COVID-19 cases in any of the other four northwest Iowa counties, but there are cases near us. At last report, there was one case in Dickinson County. In the bordering Minnesota counties, there is one case in Jackson County, but at last check, Nobles and Rock counties reported zero. In South Dakota, there are 28 cases in Minnehaha County, four in Lincoln County, and one in Union County. In Iowa, there are no cases reported in Plymouth, Cherokee, Buena Vista, or Clay counties. The next closest cases are in Woodbury county, where there are four. This information can change by the hour, and was accurate as of Tuesday morning.

For more COVID-19 prevention information including case counts in Iowa see: https://coronavirus.iowa.gov/#prevention

Des Moines, Iowa — Iowa’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained at 2.8 percent in February. The state’s jobless rate was 2.7 percent one year ago. The U.S. unemployment rate decreased slightly to 3.5 percent in February.

Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend says that because of the way the Bureau of Labor Statistics collects data, they do not expect the COVID-19 numbers to have an impact on the unemployment rate until April. The April unemployment rate will be released in mid-May. She says that the Bureau of Labor Statistics may change this but it is where we are now. Therefore, she says the February and March rates are not indicative of where we are now as a result of the recent outbreak. Townsend says they continue to encourage employers to utilize as many employees as possible and use alternative methods to allow them to work during this challenging time.

The county-by-county statistics are always a month behind and are not directly comparable to the statewide numbers because the statewide numbers are seasonally-adjusted. That is, they take into account that in the winter, there are fewer jobs in the ag, construction, tourism, and other industries. The county-by-county numbers are raw numbers that don’t take that into account.

The trend of Lyon and Sioux counties always having the lowest unemployment in our area and even in the state seems to be changing. While northwest Iowa continues to have some of the lowest unemployment figures in the state, we’re not always THE lowest.

Osceola county actually had the lowest unemployment in northwest Iowa in January — the latest month for which figures are available — at 2.6 percent. Lyon was next with 2.7, then O’Brien with 2.8, and the highest unemployment in the four-county area was actually Sioux County this time, with 2.9 percent.

Since the numbers are not seasonally adjusted, it would stand to reason that unemployment would be higher in January than in December, and the numbers bear that out. O’Brien County had the smallest increase over December numbers, up only five-tenths of a percent. Next was Lyon County, up six tenths. Osceola and Sioux counties were tied, both rising eight-tenths of a percent.

Des Moines, Iowa (RI) — Iowa Workforce Development has updated its leave policy for filing unemployment insurance benefits following the enactment of the federal coronavirus relief bill.

Iowa Workforce Development says employees who are or will be laid off or are unable to work for reasons related to COVID-19, will no longer be required to use all paid leave prior to being eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. This change is not retroactive and claims will not be backdated prior to the week of March 29th for new or existing claims.

The federal bill known as the CARES ACT provides funding to help sustain the Iowa Unemployment Trust Fund, which is funded entirely by employers doing business in Iowa and is the source of all benefit payments. For more information, click here for the press release or click here for the Iowa Workforce Development website.

March 30, 2020 - 3:35 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — There are some that think that the COVID-19 pandemic will have an effect on spring planting, and therefore it could affect the food supply.

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Crop Field Specialist Joel De Jong says he doesn’t think there will be a direct link, but . . .

(as said:)”Planting is going to happen. I don’t think there’s much doubt. I don’t think it’s going to keep farmers from getting in the field. I think in most cases most farmers are working with family members. And so they’re already in contact with each other. That’s kind of their circle of contact. On top of that a lot of the practices actually they can keep some social distance. So they probably can still protect themselves to quite a decent degree if they if they’re doing that. The question I’ve got and I’m not sure about would be, is the supply line going to continue to be filled? Will we have problems getting the products we need to actually get planting started? Will this COVID-19 cause a problem on the supply line for the crop production? My guess is a lot of it’s already in place. It needs to go out to the farming operations and get there. So I think it might be a limited impact unless we get a lot of people that actually show up with the virus themselves.”

And De Jong says if a farmer comes down with COVID-19, in this area, at least, you can probably count on fellow farmers lending a hand and planting their crop for them. He says that’s just what we do here.

(as said:)”Yeah, that’s definitely true. And I think if that situation comes up that’s probably going to happen, you know, but it’s nice in the ag sector. It’s not like being in a factory where they’re working shoulder to shoulder all the time in many cases. We have a limited number of people in that circle. And so I think that helps protect us also.”

Corn in northwest Iowa is normally planted in mid-April through mid-May if weather and soil conditions are fit. Soybeans are normally planted just a touch later, around the first of May.

March 30, 2020 - 2:26 pm - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa — A person from Linn County with COVID-19 died Saturday night. State public health officials say the person was between the ages of 61 and 80. It’s the fourth death in the state connected to the pandemic. A total of 336 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed within the state.

Sarah Reisster of the Iowa Department of Public Health says projections indicate the number of cases will continue to climb.

(As above) “We’re thinking we might see a peak, a first peak, in the next two to three weeks, so that’s the best information that we have right now,” Reisetter says. “I would reiterate that things are changing on a daily basis and we continue to look at numbers both here in Iowa and what’s happening in other states.” 

Reisster is urging Iowans who live in a county where a positive case of COVID-19 has not been reported to stay vigilant about personal hygiene and staying home, if possible.

(As above) “It should be every Iowan’s assumption that the virus is currently circulating in their community,” Reisetter said. “Although I know we all stand up here and sound like a broken record, but those mitigation strategies are so very important regardless of where you live in Iowa at this time.” 

Governor Kim Reynolds emphasizes that the incubation period for the virus is up to 14 days.

(As above) “Iowans who have recently traveled for spring break and may have been exposed to the virus are are still in that incubation period,” she says. 

The latest figures from the Iowa Department of Public Health indicate 51 Iowans were hospitalized on Saturday night for treatment of COVID-19. Experts say 80 percent of those who get the virus will either not have any symptoms or their symptoms will be mild and they’ll be able to recover at home.

Statewide Iowa — Governor Kim Reynolds says surgical abortions are included in her temporary ban on elective and non-essential surgeries to preserve medical supplies in the midst of a pandemic.

(As above) “Making sure that we have the personal protective equipment to care of those Iowans who are on the front lines serving Iowans and those in need,” Reynolds said Sunday, “…to make sure that we have our health care providers and our first responders healthy so they can take care of Iowans.”

The governor’s proclamation put a halt to all scheduled elective and non-essential surgeries in Iowa until April 16th.

(As above) “Everyone is making is making sacrifices,” Reynolds says. “Everyone.” 

Planned Parenthood officials say they are assessing the governor’s action. The organization is suing Texas over a similar order that bans medication abortions as well as surgical abortions. Current IOWA law bans abortions after 20 weeks in a pregnancy, unless the procedure is necessary to save the life of the mother.

Statewide Iowa — (RI) — Iowa’s governor grew emotional Friday when addressing claims that the threat of COVID-19 is being overblown. Governor Kim Reynolds says she’s well aware of those claims.

(As above) “Iowans are scared and they’re nervous and I appreciate that, but we’re going to get through it and if you keep doing what we ask you to do, we will be back to those good days,” Reynolds said, “so hang in there.”

Reynolds was asked Friday afternoon during her daily news conference about critics who say business closures are an over-reaction. Reynolds says she has had to make some hard decisions in the midst of a pandemic.

(As above) “The last thing that I want to do is impact families and individuals and our businesses that are the backbone of our economy,” Reynolds said, “so as the governor of this state I can assure you that the last thing that I want to issue is an order that shuts down a business.”

Reynolds says these orders are a necessity.

(As above) “I have to do what I can to protect the well-being of Iowans and especially our most vulnerable Iowans and that’s again the reason that I’m trying to get very consistent in what I’m doing and basing those decisions on data,” Reynolds says. “And hopefully, by doing that, I can get businesses stood back up and we can get this economy going again.”

Reynolds says she’s hoping the FEDERAL stimulus package that just passed congress, and was signed by President Trump, Friday afternoon will help many Iowans get through these really tough times. Most every American will get a 12-hundred dollar check and unemployment benefits will be expanded.

March 26, 2020 - 3:16 pm - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa — State officials Thursday morning revealed nearly 41-thousand Iowans filed unemployment claims last week. Beth Townsend, the director of the Iowa Workforce Development agency warned last week that the number of claims has been “staggering.”

(As above) “We are doing our very best to ensure most people will receive payment within 7-10 days of their initial claim,” Townsend says.

More than 160 Iowa Workforce Development employees who worked on other programs have been retrained and are answering the phones to take claims.

(As above) “We are going to get through this and I know that to be true from watching these inspiring state employees who are constantly asking: ‘What else can I do to help?'” Townsend says.

Last Friday, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds acknowledged the unemploymenet numbers are grim.

(As above) “They are significant and everybody knows that,” Reynolds says. “I so appreciate the measures we put in place to not only help Iowans who have been laid off, but also our employers.”

If an Iowan applies for unemployment and indicates they were laid off due to COVID-19, Reynolds says their employer will not be charged. Earlier THIS week, Reynolds announced small businesses with 25 or fewer employees that have been affected by COVID-19 closures may apply for state grants of up to 25-thousand dollars. From Sunday through Saturday of last week, more than 13-thousand Iowans who work in restaurants, bars and hotels filed for unemployment benefits. Nearly five-thousand who work in health care and social assistance programs filed unemployment claims and about 27-hundred who work in education filed for unemployment.

March 26, 2020 - 1:04 pm - Posted in News

Sibley, Iowa — The report of a stolen car in Sibley Wednesday night led to the arrest of two juveniles early Thursday in Sheldon.

According to the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office, they received a report of a car stolen from Sibley, and issued a “Be On The Lookout” request to law enforcement agencies in surrounding counties, including a description of the vehicle and it’s license plate number.

Sometime later, Osceola County authorities tell KIWA a sharp-eyed Sheldon police officer spotted the vehicle near the Sheldon Christian School, and the occupants reportedly fled on foot. Multiple Sheldon officers, along with an O’Brien County Sheriff’s Deputy, located the pair and placed them under arrest.

Osceola County authorities say the two were juveniles, and declined to release further information, citing the age of the suspects.

March 25, 2020 - 3:38 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — Many fire departments and ambulance squads in northwest Iowa are going to participate in a show of solidarity tonight.

Sibley Fire Chief Ken Huls tells us more.

(as said:) “They’ll be opening their doors at seven o’clock this evening for approximately five minutes and we’re going to be operating all of our red and blue lights just as a show of solidarity — letting our communities and the state know that Fire Department, EMS and police are still doing our jobs, and we’re in solidarity to let the communities know that we are still here for them. We’re doing our job. We’re not going to let this COVID-19 pandemic get to us and we’re going to be here for our people and help as much as we can. ”

He tells us that the idea is to show your support.

(as said:) “If you have anything red, white, and blue as in ribbons, I am on your railings up front of your house or around your trees or whatever you wish to show your support for all responders in Northwest, Iowa.”

According to Huls, they’d like to give people a chance to get out and about, while respecting social distancing rules, and show your support for your emergency responders.

(as said:) “And if people do wish to go view this I recommend they do it in their vehicles or they stand giving their — six-foot barrier rules apply. Come out and take some photos and do your appreciation in front of your departments if you want to get out of your house.”

The Facebook post that’s been going around says, “A sign of strength and hope for all. Hope for all who work daily in EMS, Fire, and Law Enforcement to be ready, strength for those working around the clock to provide care, encouragement to those who strive to find the right medicine to help, patience for those in the food/grocery industry to feed us, and will power to those trucking daily to keep us going.”