Sioux Falls, SD — Medical directors from two of the major health systems serving our area say that the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has pushed aside the other variants.

KELO Radio says Avera Health and Sanford Health chief doctors David Basel and Mike Wilde gave an update on the impact the coronavirus is having on the community, their facilities, and the staff of their networks.

The medical directors say the good news is the symptoms are milder with Omicron.

However, the bad news is that hospitalizations are increasing because of surging cases from the variant.

Avera’s Dr. Basel says the Avera system went from 100 hospitalized COVID patients on January 1st to 200 Thursday.

They say this not only has an impact on treating COVID patients, but also on those who come in with traumas, heart attacks and strokes, and other medical problems.

The health systems say they closely analyze if a patient needs surgery, particularly if it entails an overnight stay.

Both physicians say their hospitals are also dealing with sick employees, with the remaining workers dealing with a large increase in tests to process and patients to care for.

The doctors stressed that the best way to prevent getting sick or to reduce the symptoms if you do get sick is to get vaccinated and boosted.

They also say stay home from work if you feel sick.

Story from our news partner, KELO Radio

Des Moines, Iowa — A bill eligible for debate in the Iowa Senate would ensure the State Board of Health has sole authority for adding to the list of required vaccinations for children enrolled in Iowa schools or child care centers.

The bill would prohibit school or city officials from requiring that children be vaccinated against COVID before they may return to local schools in the fall. And, if the state Board of Health were to require COVID shots, Republican Senator Tim Kraayenbrink of Fort Dodge says the bill says parents may be able to opt out if that happens.

Under CURRENT law, the state Board of Health can deny all exemptions from childhood vaccinations during public health emergencies. The bill cleared the Senate Education Committee unanimously.

Iowa and other states require school-aged children be vaccinated against contagious diseases like polio and the measles before they enroll in school. So far, California and Louisiana are the only states that have added COVID vaccinations to the list of required shots that are mandatory for school attendance.

January 21, 2022 - 9:50 am - Posted in News

Des Moines, Iowa — The chairman of an Iowa House committee says after careful consideration, he’s decided now is not the time to change state law governing when property may be seized for pipelines.

Republican Representative Bobby Kaufmann said last week that he was trying to craft a bill to require that a large percentage of landowners agree to a carbon pipeline before state regulators could approve seizure of the remaining property through eminent domain.

This week, in a written statement, Kaufmann said rushing eminent domain changes through the legislature this year would send the wrong message to businesses AND to the landowners who’ve already signed easements for carbon pipelines and landowners still considering contracts.

Kaufmann says he’s passionate about private property rights, but he says it’s also important to send the message that Iowa’s legal, regulatory and tax structure is stable for new and existing business ventures.

Statewide Iowa — New daily COVID-19 hospitalization rates in the U.S. have risen 47 percent over the last two weeks, with all 50 states and the District of Columbia seeing hospitalization rates trend upward, according to data tracked by The New York Times.

Becker’s Hospital Review has taken data from the Department of Health and Human Services and compiled a list of states in order of hospitalization rate percent increase over the past two weeks. The data was last updated January 19th.

Iowa makes the list as the 14th lowest hospitalization increase, with an increase of 26%, and 32 of every 100,000 residents hospitalized for COVID.

Nebraska also reported a 26% hospitalization increase, while North Dakota saw a 24% increase, and Minnesota experienced a 19% increase.

South Dakota saw a 46% COVID hospitalization increase, landing it at number 27, while Missouri’s 39% increase puts in at number 24.

The state with the lowest increase in COVID-related hospitalizations in the past two weeks was Delaware, with just a 5% increase, while the state with the largest increase was Alabama where they saw a 121% increase in the number of hospitalizations for COVID-related illness during the past 14 days.

 

Northwest Iowa — If you’re employed, you’ve probably already received your W-2 form from your employer for 2021, and it’s time to start thinking about filing your taxes. And there’s good news for many taxpayers this year.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, or IRS, beginning this month, almost everyone can file electronically for free on IRS.gov or with the IRS2Go app. They tell us the IRS Free File program, available only through IRS.gov, offers eligible taxpayers brand-name tax preparation software packages to use at no cost. Some of the Free File packages also offer free state tax return preparation. The software does all the work of finding deductions, credits, and exemptions for you.

One thing to note, however, is that a couple of the more popular brands of tax software, both online and offline no longer work with IRS Free File. Also, even for the brands that do work with Free File, you have to start the process at irs.gov, and pick a brand there. You can’t go to the online tax preparer’s website if you want to do Free File.

The IRS says if you’re comfortable preparing your own taxes, you could also use Free File Fillable Forms, regardless of your income, to file your tax returns either by mail or online.

The IRS also says that members of the armed forces and some veterans may take advantage of MilTax. They say the free tax resource is available for the military community, offered through the Department of Defense. There are no income limits. MilTax includes tax preparation and electronic filing software, personalized support from tax consultants, and current information about filing taxes. It’s designed to address the realities of military life – including deployments, combat and training pay, housing and rentals, and multi-state filings. Eligible taxpayers can use MilTax to electronically file a federal tax return and up to three state returns for free.

Click here for more information from the IRS.

Northwest Iowa — Did you know that according to the US EPA, our area is at the highest level of risk for radon gas? The entire state of Iowa, as well as eastern South Dakota, eastern Nebraska, and southwest Minnesota are at the highest level of risk.

January is Radon Action Month. Randy Lane is a health physicist with the radon program at the Iowa Department of Public Health. He says radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that is actually produced by the decaying of uranium in the soil. He says that means that yes, there is probably naturally-occurring uranium in the soil near you. According to Lane, it’s the decay of the radon through the emission of alpha particles that’s hazardous — because they can adhere to your lungs and cause lung cancer.

Lane tells us what to do.

Those kits can also sometimes be found through your local health department, or if you call them they can at least point you in the right direction. According to Lane, you should do the test and then send it where you are directed to. If your results come back high, they suggest you do another test to make sure. If you have confirmed high levels of radon, he says that’s when they say you need to mitigate the issue. He says those who help you fix your radon problem need to be licensed. Click here for more information.

Lane tells us that if something needs to be done to prevent exposure to the cancer-causing gas in your home, what will probably happen is that a system will be installed to pipe the radon-containing air away from the spaces under your home and exhaust it to the air above your house. EPA experts tell us that when radon gas is discharged via a radon mitigation system above the roof, the radon concentration falls off dramatically with distance from the point of discharge. In fact, the radon gas concentration approaches background levels at 3-4 feet from the discharge point, and is therefore no longer a risk.

He says people should test for radon every two years.

Click here for more information about radon from the EPA.

The EPA also has a number of hotlines that you can call for more information about the various aspects of the issue:

1-800-SOSRADON (1-800-767-7236)* Purchase radon test kits by phone.
1-800-55RADON (557-2366)* Get live help for your radon questions.
1-800-644-6999* Radon Fix-It Hotline for general information on fixing or reducing the radon level in your home.
1-800-426-4791 Safe Drinking Water Hotline for general information on drinking water, radon in water, testing and treatment, and standards for radon drinking water.
Operated under a contract with EPA.

January 18, 2022 - 3:17 pm - Posted in News

George, Iowa — Most high schools in northwest Iowa have their homecoming celebrations in the fall, during football season. But George/Little Rock is one of the few that have homecoming during basketball season.

And this is homecoming week at George/Little Rock. The Homecoming King and Queen have been announced. Congratulations to Queen Shealyn Denekas and King Taylor Putnam.

The high schoolers are having different dress-up days. Monday was Senior Citizens day. Tuesday’s theme was “Anything but a backpack,” when students could carry their books, computers, and/or supplies in — you guessed it — anything BUT a backpack. On Wednesday it’s color day. Middle schoolers will wear brown, freshmen- blue, sophomores- pink, juniors- white, seniors- black, and the staff will wear red. Thursday it’s Country vs. Country club, and Friday will be Spirit Day.

In the elementary, Monday was mismatch day, Tuesday was pajama day, Wednesday is crazy hair or hat day, Thursday is class color day, and Friday is school spirit day.

In the high school sports department, Tuesday evening it’s 9th grade and varsity basketball at Sioux Center. On Thursday, it’s 9th, JV, and Varsity basketball at West Lyon and JV and Varsity Wrestling — a double dual at Central Lyon. The homecoming games will be on Friday night and will feature the JV and varsity, boy and girl Mustangs versus Sheldon at the GLR High School Gym in George. On Saturday, there’s a varsity wrestling tournament at Parkston, South Dakota High School, followed by the Homecoming Dance from 8-11 p.m.

January 17, 2022 - 4:31 pm - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa — Socioeconomic studies conducted for the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission show some types of crimes do increase in casino communities — but overall they aren’t less safe.

Spectrum Gaming Group managing director, Michael Pollock, says you have to look very closely at the crime studies.

Pollock says certain types of non-violent crimes– such as robberies and thefts — are higher in casino towns. He says that’s because there are more people and money there and opportunities for criminals.

Pollock says other positive factors offset the impact.

Pollock says their study shows similar things with other socioeconomic impacts such as divorce.

He says you also have to look at the history of an area prior to the casino being there.

Pollock says there is an increase in problem gambling with casinos, but he says there are a lot of factors involved in that issue as well. He says the problem gambling rate remains very low in Iowa and the state ranks fourth for the amount of money put into its gambling treatment program. You can see the full report on the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission website.

January 17, 2022 - 3:03 pm - Posted in News

Rock Rapids, Iowa — A tractor was destroyed in a fire on Saturday, January 15, 2022, near Rock Rapids.

According to Rock Rapids Fire Chief Ed Reck, about 2:30 p.m., the Rock Rapids Fire Department was called to the report of a tractor on fire near 140th Street and Garfield Avenue, about a mile north and three miles west of Rock Rapids.

The chief says the fire department saw the tractor fully involved when they arrived. He says the driver told them he had been driving down the road with a round bale on the front of the tractor, which was pulling a bale processor, when he noticed an issue and then shortly noticed flames from under the hood. He tells them that very quickly the whole tractor was on fire. Reck says firefighters used water and foam to fight the fire.

He says no injuries were reported.

He says the cause of the fire appeared to be electrical in nature, but is undetermined.

Chief Reck reports that the tractor was totaled in the blaze, but the bale in the front and the bale processor in the back were undamaged.

He says the firefighters who responded were on the scene about 20 minutes.

January 17, 2022 - 1:55 pm - Posted in News

George, Iowa — A George man was injured Saturday afternoon (January 15th) when he crashed his snowmobile north of George.

According to the Iowa State Patrol, the mishap occurred shortly after 3:00 pm Saturday on Kennedy Avenue, north of 200th Street, when a 2017 Skidoo snowmobile, operated by 56-year-old Colin Sprock was southbound in the east ditch.  Troopers say the snowmobile hit a rut in the ditch, throwing Sprock from the machine.

Sprock was transported to the Sanford Sheldon Medical Center by the Lyon County Ambulance.

Damage to the snowmobile is estimated at approximately $500.00.