Northwest Iowa — While many businesses and organizations are back to normal after helping flatten the COVID-19 hospitalization curve, some are still not back to normal, and events continue to fall.

Checking some situations around northwest Iowa, we found that the courthouses in the four northwest Iowa counties are all partially open.

In O’Brien County, Auditor Barb Rohwer says that at this time, appointments are required for everything at the courthouse. She says there is a drop box on the east side of the building by the flagpole, which is now available 24/7. She says they’re looking at relocating polling places for the November General Election because the small buildings that are normally used are not big enough spaces to allow for social distancing.

In Sioux County, their offices are open to the public from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays, through one entrance only. Employees are in their offices from 8 to 4:30, however, and are available by phone or by appointment during that time. Courthouse officials say people are encouraged to wear a mask, but if you’re sick, they want you to stay home. Glass barriers are in place. There is a dropbox in place. And, at this time, the driver’s license personnel are only available at the Sioux Center location, at the Centre Mall, and NOT at the courthouse. However, other divisions of the Treasurer’s Office are still at the courthouse, such as motor vehicle and property tax.

In Osceola County, their offices are open, but it’s best to call ahead, as the situation keeps changing. They do have drop boxes in their drive-thru and entryway.

In Lyon County, offices are open at the courthouse, but appointments are necessary for the Treasurer’s office departments such as motor vehicle, driver’s license, and property tax.

All the counties advise that the clerks of court are a state office, so they have their own rules, which as of now state that they are to work behind closed doors. If you have business in the clerks’ offices, they ask you to call.

We also asked what the situation is in a number of northwest Iowa towns.

In Sheldon, the Main Street Cinemas are closed until they can obtain new releases. Chamber Director Shantel Oostra advised that it would be a good idea to call ahead if you have business in Sheldon offices. She says some fast food dining rooms may be closed as well.

In Sibley, we are told that everything is pretty well back to “normal”. They remind us that nursing homes continue to be closed to family and visitors.

In Hull, all businesses are open that were once closed. Hull Chamber officials tell us the Hull Historical Museum is still closed. They will be resuming their Chamber meetings in July.

Sioux Center Chamber officials say that most everything is back to normal there.

Rock Valley Chamber officials tell us that with the exception of religious services having to make adjustments, most everything there is normal as well. We are told some churches there are having to have more services and restrict attendants to people whose last names begin with a letter in a certain range of the alphabet, or similar restrictions, in order to comply with social distancing.

Northwest Iowa — The four northwesternmost Iowa counties reported 14 more COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, according to the latest statistics from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Sioux County was up eight cases at 488. Lyon County was up two at 47. O’Brien County was up two at 91, and Osceola County was up two at 64.

As far as active cases, Lyon County has six, Sioux County has 108, O’Brien County has 22, and Osceola has fifteen.

Recovery rate:

Lyon — out of 47 cases, 41 have recovered, for a rate of about 91%
Sioux — out of 488 cases, 380 have recovered, for a rate of about 79%
O’Brien — out of 91 cases, 69 have recovered, for a rate of about 78%
Osceola — out of 64 cases, 49 have recovered, for a rate of about 79%

Also, one death has been reported in these four counties since the beginning of the pandemic, that in O’Brien county on Tuesday, June 9th.

Total numbers of cases from other counties around the area and their change from the previous report (7/7/2020):

Iowa counties:
Plymouth 325, unchanged
Cherokee 77, up 1
Buena Vista 1724, up 7
Clay 141, up 4
Dickinson 281, up 15

Minnesota counties:
Jackson 55, unchanged
Nobles 1672, unchanged
Rock 31, unchanged

South Dakota counties:
Minnehaha 3706, up 21
Lincoln 376, up 5
Union 138, up 1

Here are some density numbers from regional hot spots. But keep in mind, that these numbers do include people who have had COVID-19, and have since recovered.

Buena Vista County, Iowa has a density of about one case in 12 people. Very close to that density is Nobles County, Minnesota, where there is one case in 13 people. Next in our region is Woodbury County with one case in every 31 people, and then Minnehaha County, South Dakota with one case in 52 people.

In the four northwesternmost Iowa counties, Sioux County tops the density list at one case in 72 people. Osceola is next with one case per 94 people. Next is O’Brien County with one in 152 people, and Lyon County reports a density of one case in every 251 people.

Statewide Iowa–(RI)–Governor Kim Reynolds is allocating 30 million dollars to provide mental health care to Iowa adults and children.

The federal money was sent to the state to deal with the pandemic. Reynolds says the disruptions COVID-19 has caused in the lives of so many Iowans have made access to mental health services more important than ever.

(as said) “It’s important for Iowans to be mindful of their mental health and to know that there’s a place to go if they need help.”

The money will be distributed to the state’s 14 mental health care regions, to pay for direct patient care. Iowa Department of Human Services director Kelly Garcia says providers are doing important work in a challenging situation.

(as said) “We’re paying attention,” Garcia says. “We’re trying to target our efforts and there is help for those in need.”

Reynolds is allocating another 20 million dollars in federal funds to support treatment for substance abuse addiction AND mental health counseling. Andrew Allen is president of an Ames-based non-profit that provides counseling and other services to youth.

(as said) “While we could not have predicted the pandemic or the legislative session or the CARES Act, this funding could not have come at a more critical time for our state,” Allen says.

The 2020 legislature suspended action for 11 weeks due to the pandemic and tabled its debate about ways to boost STATE funding for mental health services. In January, Governor Reynolds proposed using part of a state sales tax increase to financing the state’s adult and children’s mental health systems, but has put that on hold. This federal money is a stop-gap move.

(as said) “We don’t want to just weather the storm of COVID-19. We want to help our system to innovate and adapt to the challenges the future holds.” Reynolds says.

The state earlier received a million dollars from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for crisis counseling for Iowans directly impacted by COVID-19.

Statewide Iowa — (RI) — Governor Kim Reynolds says she has not given Iowa cities and counties authority to enforce local ordinances that require people to wear face coverings in public.

Reynolds says that means the proclamation Muscatine’s mayor issued Sunday requiring face coverings is not appropriate, but the governor says if conditions change dramatically, she may adjust her public health proclamation.

(as said) Reynolds says. “All things are on the table and we’re going to continue to review, manage, mitigate, and contain the coronavirus, we can do that in a responsible way.”

The governor says she will elevate the message about the importance of wearing a mask to protect others.

(as said) “This is the same information that we’ve given to Iowans from the very beginning. People need to practice personal responsibility.” Reynolds says.

In the past two weeks, 60 percent of the Iowans who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 were adults between the ages of 18 and 40.

(as said) “People have been locked down. You know, they’re ready to get outside. They’re ready to get together with friends and family, so I don’t think it’s entirely surprising that we’ve seen a little bit of an uptick,” Reynolds says. “So now, we need to dig into the details. We need to figure out why and then we need to talk about maybe what we can do, what are the next steps that we can do to continue to protect Iowans.”

The governor says there’s a worrisome increase in cases among young adults in Iowa’s college towns and larger cities. Reynolds says she would consider adjusting regulations on bars, perhaps ordering an earlier closing time, if that trend continues.

(as said) “There’s a perception that because COVID is less serious for younger adults, that an increase in positive cases among this age group isn’t an issue, but that perception is false,” Reynolds says. “The consequences of COVID-19 continuing to spread among young adults increases the likely the virus will continue to spread and then will spread to others, including those that are most vulnerable.”

Reynolds says for the past two weeks, the Test Iowa program has far surpassed its targeted capacity of three-thousand tests per day. From Monday through Thursday of last week, more than 13-thousand-six hundred Iowans were tested through the program. Reynolds says a new Test Iowa site opened Wednesday in Algona. An estimated 10-thousand motorcyclists from around the state gathered just outside Algona last weekend, raising concerns the virus would be spread in the community.

July 8, 2020 - 9:06 am - Posted in Community Calendar, News

The Rock Rapids Municipal Utilities have issued a peak alert for June 29th and 30th. They tell us they may need to issue peak alerts for the rest of the week too, but they will let us know.

Rock Rapids Municipal Utilities residents are asked to postpone or reduce the use of electrical devices (such as electric clothes dryers, electric ovens, etc.) during peak times (between 12 noon – 8 PM).

Peak electricity is more expensive and the demand may increase electric bills for all residents. By reducing or postponing electrical usage during peak times, you’ll help keep down your utility costs.

A peak alert has been issued by the Rock Rapids Municipal Utilities. Thank you for your cooperation.

Northwest Iowa — The four northwesternmost Iowa counties reported 10 more COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, according to the latest statistics from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Sioux County was up seven cases at 480. Lyon County was up one at 45. O’Brien County was up one at 89, and Osceola County was up one at 62.

As far as active cases, Lyon County has four, Sioux County has 108, O’Brien County has 21, and Osceola has thirteen.

Recovery rate:

Lyon — out of 45 cases, 41 have recovered, for a rate of about 91%
Sioux — out of 480 cases, 372 have recovered, for a rate of about 78%
O’Brien — out of 89 cases, 68 have recovered, for a rate of about 76%
Osceola — out of 62 cases, 49 have recovered, for a rate of about 79%

Also, one death has been reported in these four counties since the beginning of the pandemic, that in O’Brien county on Tuesday, June 9th.

Total numbers of cases from other counties around the area and their change from the previous report (7/6/2020):

Iowa counties:
Plymouth 325, up 3
Cherokee 76, up 1
Buena Vista 1717, up 4
Clay 137, up 3
Dickinson 266, unchanged

Minnesota counties:
Jackson 55, unchanged
Nobles 1672, up 3
Rock 31, unchanged

South Dakota counties:
Minnehaha 3685, up 18
Lincoln 371, up 5
Union 137, unchanged

Here are some density numbers from regional hot spots. But keep in mind, that these numbers do include people who have had COVID-19, and have since recovered.

Buena Vista County, Iowa has a density of about one case in 12 people. Very close to that density is Nobles County, Minnesota, where there is one case in 13 people. Next in our region is Woodbury County with one case in every 31 people, and then Minnehaha County, South Dakota with one case in 52 people.

In the four northwesternmost Iowa counties, Sioux County tops the density list at one case in 73 people. Osceola is next with one case per 97 people. Next is O’Brien County with one in 156 people, and Lyon County reports a density of one case in every 262 people.

July 7, 2020 - 9:52 am - Posted in News

Statewide Iowa — The new varieties of corn have made the old standard “knee high” by the Fourth of July a thing of the past as corn in some areas is already five to six feet high.

Iowa State University Field Agronomist, Angie Rieck-Hintz says the differences in rainfall are really starting to show in her north-central Iowa area.

(as she says) “We can certainly tell where the drier than usual places are — because the corn is starting to get that pineapplely look in some places and it is starting to happen early in the day. Which just means between the heat stress and lack of water — that crop is under stress,” Reick-Hintz says.

She says Webster and Humboldt counties are good examples of drier areas.

(as she says) “Humboldt County is almost five-and-a-half inches below its normal rainfall going back to April. “So, you can definitely see that stress in the crop. And as we get hotter this week, that will probably continue to worsen.”

Those crops show the pineapple effect she talked about as their leaves curl up. But Rieck-Hintz says other counties are doing pretty well.

(as she says) “You get into eastern Hamilton County, you get in Hardin County, Franklin County, where they had a few more rains not that long ago, that crop still looks really good right?” Rieck-Hintz says. “We don’t see that leaf rolling in the morning or as early in the day. But, this is going to be a big week for heat and doesn’t sound like we are going to get a lot of rain.”

Reick-Hintz says she is seeing some tassels starting to appear — which is a sign the corn is advancing it its development. The soybeans are also making progress.

(as she says)”We have beans which are almost to R-3, which means beginning pod. So they are starting to set pods on there and pretty soon there will be little beans. There are little beans in the little pods — so that’s awesome,” she says.

Rieck-Hintz says getting enough moisture is the biggest issue facing the development of both crops right now.

(as she says)”We don’t see a lot of disease pressure out there in corn or soybeans,” she says. “We don’t have a lot of insect activity going on.”

The latest USDA Crop report rated topsoil moisture levels rated 3% very short, 19% short, 76% adequate and 2% surplus. Subsoil moisture levels rated 2% very short, 14% short, 81% adequate and 3% surplus.

Statewide Iowa — (RI) — A federal judge has ordered the Dakota Access oil pipeline that runs through Iowa to shut down until an environmental review is completed.

The pipeline carries oil from North Dakota to Illinois. It runs 350 miles through 18 Iowa counties, entering the state in northwest Iowa’s Lyon County and exits from Lee County in the southeast. Oil began pumping through the pipeline more than three years ago. The company that runs the pipeline is seeking permits to double its capacity.

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s lawsuit asks the court to throw out the federal permit for the pipeline. In 2016, the Sierra Club and more than a dozen Iowans who owned land along the pipeline’s route unsuccessfully sued in state court to try to block operation of the pipeline.

Worthing, SD — There’s another reminder that the pest that’s been devastating the ash tree population in the United States is almost literally next door to our area.

The South Dakota Department of Agriculture has confirmed that an infestation of emerald ash borer (EAB) has been discovered in Worthing, South Dakota. This May, an infestation was reported near Canton, South Dakota, which is right across the Big Sioux River from Lyon County. Both communities are in South Dakota’s Lincoln County. In 2018, the first confirmed infestation in South Dakota was identified in Sioux Falls. Emerald ash borer is an invasive insect that has killed millions of ash trees in at least 32 states. Its presence was confirmed in Iowa ten years ago.

EAB has also been confirmed to our south and east in Cherokee and Buena Vista counties, and there are unconfirmed reports that it is in southeastern O’Brien County.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources says adult emerald ash borer beetles live on the outside of trees and feed on the leaves during the summer months, while the larvae feed on the living plant tissue underneath the bark. The tunneling and feeding activity of the larvae is what ultimately kills trees. EAB attacks trees of any size, age, or stage of health, and trees can die within two years of infestation.

Northwest Iowa — The four northwesternmost Iowa counties reported 22 more COVID-19 cases over the Independence Day Weekend, according to the latest statistics from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Sioux County was up twelve cases since Thursday at 473. Lyon County was up four at 44. O’Brien County was up two at 88, and Osceola County was up four at 61.

As far as active cases, Lyon County has four, Sioux County has 101, O’Brien County has 25, and Osceola has thirteen.

Recovery rate:

Lyon — out of 44 cases, 40 have recovered, for a rate of about 91%
Sioux — out of 473 cases, 372 have recovered, for a rate of about 79%
O’Brien — out of 88 cases, 63 have recovered, for a rate of about 72%
Osceola — out of 61 cases, 48 have recovered, for a rate of about 79%

Also, one death has been reported in these four counties since the beginning of the pandemic, that in O’Brien county on Tuesday, June 9th.

Total numbers of cases from other counties around the area and their change from the previous report (7/2/2020):

Iowa counties:
Plymouth 322, up 10
Cherokee 75, unchanged
Buena Vista 1713, up 8
Clay 134, up 7
Dickinson 266, up 7

Minnesota counties:
Jackson 55, unchanged
Nobles 1669, up 8
Rock 31, up 2

South Dakota counties:
Minnehaha 3667, up 29
Lincoln 366, up 14
Union 137, up 11

Here are some density numbers from regional hot spots. But keep in mind, that these numbers do include people who have had COVID-19, and have since recovered.

Buena Vista County, Iowa has a density of about one case in 12 people. Very close to that density is Nobles County, Minnesota, where there is one case in 13 people. Next in our region is Woodbury County with one case in every 32 people, and then Minnehaha County, South Dakota with one case in 53 people.

In the four northwesternmost Iowa counties, Sioux County tops the density list at one case in 74 people. Osceola is next with one case per 99 people. Next is O’Brien County with one in 157 people, and Lyon County reports a density of one case in every 268 people.