December 4, 2020 - 3:36 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — Forty-five new COVID cases were reported in the four northwesternmost Iowa counties on Friday, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

O’Brien County was up 14 cases at 1358 cases since the pandemic started. Sioux County was up 20 cases at 3851. Lyon County was up 7 cases at 1078, and Osceola County was up 4 at 550. An average of about one in every 10 northwest Iowans in our area has now tested positive for COVID-19 since March.

Seventy-one people have died in the four counties since the pandemic started — Sioux County has had twenty-nine. O’Brien County has had thirty-two. Osceola County has had one death. Lyon County has had nine since the pandemic started.

Out of the 1078 Lyon County residents who have had COVID-19, 661 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 61%.
Out of the 3851 Sioux County residents who have had COVID-19, 2871 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 75%.
Out of the 1358 O’Brien County residents who have had COVID-19, 925 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 68%.
Out of the 550 Osceola County residents who have had COVID-19, 362 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 66%.

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

Iowa counties:
Plymouth 2918 , up 54
Cherokee 975 , up 17
Buena Vista 3182 , up 27
Clay 1267 , up 28
Dickinson 1462 , up 7

December 4, 2020 - 3:25 pm - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa — Republican Governor Kim Reynolds says her “Invest in Iowa” tax plan has been delayed by the pandemic, but not forgotten. Reynolds spoke during the Iowa Taypayers Association’s online meeting Thursday, just before announcing the state’s plan to distribute the first batches of Covid-19 vaccine.

(As above) “We’re going to get through it and things are looking better every day,” Reynolds said, “so I guess if nothing else I want all of your members to hear we’re in a good spot and we’re moving in the right direction and I look forward to 2021.”

Early this year, Reynolds called for cutting state income taxes by 10 percent and raising the state sales tax to finance water quality projects and to replace property taxes spent on mental health care.

(As above) “While the pandemic cut our discussion short on those and other tax reforms, I want you to know they’ve just been delayed, not forgotten,” Reynolds says. “And the very fact that I can even say, that I can even mention the words ‘tax cuts’ in 2020, it is strictly because Iowa has kept its fiscal house in order.” 

Due to one-point-two BILLION dollars in FEDERAL pandemic aid, the governor is overseeing a STATE budget surplus of at least 300 MILLION, with more than 700 MILLION in reserves. Reynolds says that shows the state budget is in a strong position — and there are opportunities “to deliver tax savings” to Iowans in 2021.

(As above) “We’re not facing massive budget shortfalls like many states are facing and all you have to do is look to the north or to the east, just look around the country,” she said, “and we’ve not experienced really any notable changes in tax revenue.”

Four legislators from key committees spoke to the tax group after the governor. Republican Representative Lee Hein of Monticello — chairman of the Ways and Means tax-writing Committee in the Iowa House — shared a note of caution about making a “huge tax cut” before assessing the full economic impact of the pandemic.

(As above) “I keep chirping this unknown of where we’re at with all the things that went on in 2020,” Hein said, “but I truly believe that we need to be very prudent in how we move forward in the next year or so until we get a true handle on where the economy will take us.”

Senator Pam Jochum, a Democrat from Dubuque, predicts there won’t be room for tax cuts as legislators respond to the impact the pandemic has had on small businesses and individuals.

(As above) “Financially it’s going to be very hard for us to make a lot of adjustments in taxes because we still have to keep the lights on,” Jochum said. “We still have to keep the school doors open.”

The 2021 legislative session begins January 11th.

December 4, 2020 - 2:44 pm - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa — Iowa Department of Education director Ann Lebo says school disruptions during the pandemic have had an impact on elementary students who’re learning to read.

(as said) “Every year Iowa schools screen students in K-3 to ensure they are on track to be proficient readers by the end of third grade,” Lebo said. “This fall we saw a drop in literacy screening scores for each of grades K-3, but most significantly for first grade. Decreases range from 5 percentage points for kindergarten to 21% for first grade.”

Lebo suggests with half the school year left, there’s still time to intervene with students in the early grades who’re having difficulty reading.

(as said) “Meeting students where they’re at and helping them grow is challenging under normal conditions, but the continued passion and commitment of our educators and school leaders has shown that we can adapt and will continue to do so.”

A recent study found students who cannot read at grade level when they finish third grade are four times more likely to drop out and not finish high school. Test scores from LAST year showed only 35 percent of Iowa 4th graders were considered proficient readers, meaning they were able to read material at or above their grade level.

 

Statewide Iowa — The USDA is forecasting net farm income for 2020 will jump 43 percent over last year, reaching a seven-year high of nearly 120 BILLION dollars.

Ag economist David Widmar is with the consulting firm Agricultural Economic Insights.

(as said) “I would summarize this as an update of a pretty dramatic upswing in the farm economy,” he says.

The previous USDA forecast was released in early September.

(as said) “It was about seven or eight weeks in August and September that the farm economy got to sort of the edge of looking really, really bleak,” he says, “and then all of a sudden things started turning favorably.”

Widmar uses the word “dramatic” to describe the jump in commodity prices since September. There have also been record direct government payments to farmers in 2020, more than double the amount in 2019, as the Trump Administration made extra farm payments for trade disruptions and the pandemic. Government payments will account for 39 percent of net farm income in 2020 according to the USDA.

(as said) “$40-plus billion in direct payments,” he says, “a historically high level of direct payments.”

Adjusting for inflation, 2011 and 2013 were the only other years when net farm income has been higher. Widmar cautions, though, that not every farmer is making a profit, especially when considering livestock and dairy prices.

December 4, 2020 - 1:29 pm - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa — The state website tracking deaths during the pandemic shows more than a quarter of the Iowans who’ve died after testing positive for COVID died in the month of November.

Governor Kim Reynolds says the record number of deaths last month is connected to the high numbers of Iowans who’ve recently tested positive for the virus.

(As above) “You’ll see an uptick in positive cases and if you look at the numbers on the website about two weeks later you’re going to see an increase in the hospitalizations,” Reynolds says, “and then about two weeks after that is what you start to see some of the deaths occur.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, a record 165 Iowa nursing homes had COVID outbreaks, with more than 52-hundred residents and staff infected with the virus — also a record. Reynolds says the state agencies that oversee the nursing home industry are reviewing infection control measures at facilities with outbreaks.

(As above) “Now that Thanksgiving has passed, we’re also going to be closely monitoring case counts, positivity rate and hospitalizations over the next two weeks for any significant increase,” Reynolds says. “…We are cautiously optimistic that the mitigation efforts currently in place are achieving what they are intended to do and get it into a more manageable level.”

Reynolds says the state made what she describes as “slow, steady progress” after November 17th when hospitalizations peaked. The COVID patient count has declined every day but one since then.

December 4, 2020 - 12:37 pm - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa — With clear skies and highs in the 40s forecast for much of the state this weekend, it’s expected to be an extremely busy opening weekend for shotgun deer season.

Tyler Harms, a biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says the fields and forests will be full of hunters.

(As above) “It’s our most popular deer hunting season of the year,” Harms says. “We expect to see about 120,000 hunters in the field hunting deer in the next few weekends. The weather forecast for this weekend looks really great.” 

Harms says those hunters should find a target-rich environment in many parts of Iowa.

(As above) “So far this year, our harvest is trending right along about where we were at this time last year,” Harms says. “That’s a good sign. That indicates to us the population is fairly similar to where it was last year and things are looking good for this weekend.”

Harms says there are a few key changes in deer hunting regulations this year, like allowing for antlerless deer hunting in seven north-central Iowa counties.

(As above) “That is something that we have not allowed in previous years, mostly to allow the population to recover to goal levels,” he says, “but our data suggests the population is increasing so we’re allowing antlerless harvest in those counties.”

Harms reminds all hunters to review their safety training.

(As above) “Have a plan and hunt your plan, make sure you’re wearing plenty of blaze orange,” Harms says. “Also, be mindful of your shot. Make sure you know what your target is and what’s beyond your target.” 

Hours for shotgun deer season are from sunrise and sunset. The first shotgun deer season runs from December 5th to the 9th, with the second season running December 12th to the 20th.

For more information, visit iowadnr.gov.

Northwest Iowa — Five COVID deaths and eighty-four new COVID cases were reported in the four northwesternmost Iowa counties on Thursday, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

In the last 24 hours, one Lyon County resident, three Sioux County residents, and one O’Brien county resident all lost their lives to the disease. Seventy-one people have died in the four counties since the pandemic started — Sioux County has now had twenty-nine. O’Brien County has had thirty-two. Osceola County has had one death. Lyon County has now had nine since the pandemic started.

O’Brien County was up 18 cases at 1344 cases since the pandemic started. Sioux County was up 47 cases at 3831. Lyon County was up 12 cases at 1071, and Osceola County was up 7 at 546. An average of about one in every 10 northwest Iowans in our area has now tested positive for COVID-19 since March.

Out of the 1071 Lyon County residents who have had COVID-19, 650 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 61%.
Out of the 3831 Sioux County residents who have had COVID-19, 2828 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 74%.
Out of the 1344 O’Brien County residents who have had COVID-19, 904 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 67%.
Out of the 546 Osceola County residents who have had COVID-19, 352 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 64%.

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

Iowa counties:
Plymouth 2864 , up 52
Cherokee 958 , up 26
Buena Vista 3155 , up 35
Clay 1239 , up 30
Dickinson 1455 , up 33

Rock Valley, Iowa — Five area fire departments worked for ten hours on Wednesday to extinguish a fire that burned 1500 round cornstalk bales near Rock Valley.

According to Rock Valley Fire Chief Brent Eshuis, about 3:45 p.m., the Rock Valley Fire Department was called to the report of a ditch fire with round bales on fire in the 3400 block of Fig Avenue, three miles south of Rock Valley and one mile east.

The chief says the fire department saw a large hay fire as they approached the scene. He says it appears to have started when a ditch fire went out of control and started the nearby round bales on fire. He says it also burned an electric line and pole owned by MidAmerican Energy. He says they called the electric company, who assisted on-scene. Eshuis tells us they sprayed the bales down and a local excavator helped them by pulling them apart. Four to five farmers with payloaders helped. He says they took the bales into a pasture. Eventually, AB Excavating of Larchwood came with an excavator with a 60-foot reach. Eshuis says a big thank-you goes to them. He says without them, they’d still be there working on the fire.

Eshuis says no injuries were reported.

The fire department was assisted by the Hull, Sioux Center, Ireton, and Doon fire departments, the Rock Valley Ambulance Squad, the Sioux County Sheriff’s Office, the Iowa State Patrol, the Sioux County Engineer’s Office, Sioux County Emergency Management, the Rural Water system, and neighbors with their payloaders.

Chief Eshuis reports that the damage consisted of the bales, the electric pole, and possible smoke damage in a house.

He says the firefighters who responded were on the scene for ten hours and used between 150,000 and 175,000 gallons of water to extinguish the huge blaze.

************************************
A much smaller fire was put out near Larchwood, also on Wednesday afternoon. Larchwood Fire Chief Tony De Smet says it was in the 1600 block of 160th Street, which is two miles south and almost a mile west of Larchwood. He says it was also a fire that got out of control. Someone was burning garbage, and the fire started the grass on fire and also destroyed a small ten by twelve-foot shed, says De Smet.

No injuries were reported, and firefighters had the fire extinguished in about a half an hour.

Picture from the Sioux County Sheriff’s Office

Statewide Iowa — Pending FDA approval, Governor Kim Reynolds says Iowa will get its first shipment of 26-thousand doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine during the week of December 13th. That’ll be the first of multiple shipments this month which should total 172-thousand doses.

(As above) “It’s this initial quantity of vaccines that will be prioritized according to the recommendations of the CDC. In Iowa, we’ll distribute a portion of the allocation to hospitals for their workforce and to our long-term care facilities.”

The Pfizer vaccine is said to have an efficacy rate of 95-percent and it has to be given in two doses, 21 days apart. Iowa Department of Human Services director Kelly Garcia says storage is key.

(As above) “The vaccine requires ultra-cold storage at temperatures of negative-70 degrees Celsius. Once thawed, the vaccine is stable at refrigerator temperatures for five days.

Garcia says the state’s nailed down 39 locations so far for ultra-cold storage. She says by the middle of next year, there should be plenty of vaccine for everyone. The Moderna vaccine, which is also expected to be shipped to Iowa, is said to have an efficacy rate of 94.5%. It also has to be given in two doses, 28 days apart, and can be stored at a more traditional level of negative-20-degrees Celsius and it can be stable for 30 days, once thawed.

December 3, 2020 - 2:05 am - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — If you’re someone who has had COVID-19, your fellow northwest Iowans could use your help. That’s from Dr. Amy Badberg, a physician at Sanford Sheldon Medical Center.

She tells us if you’ve had it, your body has something that new or critically-ill COVID patients could use.

 

(as said:) “The convalescent plasma is plasma that’s been taken from people who have had covid and recovered from it. And so what we are hoping with giving patients that are actively having COVID and are really sick with it… that we’re giving their immune system a boost by other people’s immune system helping them.”

Badberg tells us that plasma is the fluid part of your blood, minus the red and white blood cells. And she says the plasma is where antibodies live, such as the COVID antibodies that can fight off COVID.

(as said:) “When they go to donate this plasma, they actually test to see if they have antibodies in your blood and then they will keep it because they want those antibodies. So from somebody who’s recovered, they want those antibioties is to help somebody who’s fighting it right now to help their immune system help get rid of it.”

She says the patient experience for plasma donation is similar to giving blood, but it’s not something that can be done on the bloodmobile.

(as said:) “You have to travel unfortunately to Sioux City or Sioux Falls. You have to go to a plasma donation site. And what they will do is they will want to prove that you’ve had covid so they’ll want your positive test done and then they will draw blood and they will take some of your plasma and so they put an IV in each of your arms and take your blood out, take the plasma out, and then put the rest of the red blood cells back in. So you won’t really notice any difference but we’re just taking that part of the blood that has those antibodies in it so we can give it to other people. “

According to Dr. Badberg, giving plasma, and thereby your antibodies so that someone else can benefit does not diminish your own immunity.

(as said:) “So your body, once it starts to make antibodies is going to continue to make those antibodies. So by us taking them out with the plasma, you are not more likely to get sicker or more likely to get it sooner again. It’s just purely taking those out and giving them to somebody else that it would help.”

Community Blood Bank Executive Director Ken Ver Steeg says they offer plasma donation in Sioux Falls at their fixed site. He says the equipment is very sensitive and it takes your blood, separates the plasma from the red cells and platelets, then returns the red cells and platelets to you.

According to Ver Steeg, the donation takes about 40 minutes. Using this method of donation, the donor is able to give two to three units of convalescent plasma that will be directly transfused to two to three critically-ill COVID patients.

You can call the Community Blood Bank in Sioux Falls at (877)877-3070 or visit cbblifeblood.org for more information.

You can call Lifeserve Blood Center in Sioux City at (800) 287-4903 or visit lifeservebloodcenter.org for more information.