Northwest Iowa — One death and sixty-nine new COVID cases were reported in the four northwesternmost Iowa counties on Wednesday, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

It was a Sioux County resident who lost their life. Sixty-six people have died in the four counties since the pandemic started — Sioux County has now had twenty-six. O’Brien County has had thirty-one. Osceola County has had one death. Lyon County has had eight since the pandemic started.

O’Brien County was up 17 cases at 1326 cases since the pandemic started. Sioux County was up 45 cases at 3784. Lyon County was up 4 cases at 1059, and Osceola County was up 3 at 539. An average of about one in every 11 northwest Iowans in our area has tested positive for COVID-19 since March.

Out of the 1059 Lyon County residents who have had COVID-19, 634 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 60%.
Out of the 3784 Sioux County residents who have had COVID-19, 2805 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 74%.
Out of the 1326 O’Brien County residents who have had COVID-19, 886 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 67%.
Out of the 539 Osceola County residents who have had COVID-19, 345 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 2812, up 38
Cherokee 932, up 26
Buena Vista 3120, up 30
Clay 1209, up 14
Dickinson 1422, up 16

Northwest Iowa — Voter turnout in the recent election was strong in northwest Iowa. And absentee voting was popular.

According to the Iowa Secretary of State, O’Brien County had 76.49% voter turnout. They say there are 9,415 active and 508 inactive registered voters. The stats tell us that 3,908 people voted on election day, and nearly that many voted early or absentee, with 3,682 choosing that option. There were a total of 7,590 people that voted in the election. Very nearly half of the voters voted absentee — 48.5%.

O’Brien County Auditor and Commissioner of Elections Barb Rohwer says 2020 the highest absentee turnout, but she says she can’t say if it was due to COVID or because of the mass mailing of the absentee requests by the Secretary of State. Rohwer says she believes that we will find that the level of absentee participation will stay around this rate if not higher. According to Rohwer, “Once voters experience the convenience of voting this way, they tend to continue.” She says she thinks this may become the new normal.

Sioux County had 83.19% turnout — which is one of the highest turnouts in the state. The figures tell us there are 22,086 active and 943 inactive registered voters. They say 10,735 people voted on election day, and 8,423 people voted early or absentee. There were a total of 19,158 people that voted in the election, or very nearly 44 percent.

Sioux County Auditor and Commissioner of Elections Ryan Dokter says Sioux County’s turnout by percentage was just slightly less than in the 2016 general election, when turnout was 83.57%. But he says that is mainly due to the fact that the county has just over 1,000 more registered voters in 2020 than in 2016. Nonetheless, Dokter says it was still a very good turnout and right in line with 2012 and 2016 voter turnout.

He says absentees for 2016 were 5,784 or 31.55% of the total vote. Absentees for 2012 were 5,649 or 32.55% of the total vote. Dokter says 31% to 33% of the total vote is about normal for absentee ballots in Sioux County, so 44 percent is pretty high, but that’s to be expected with the continuing pandemic.

Osceola County had 77.41% turnout. They say there are 4,145 active and 179 inactive registered voters. The stats tell us that 1,872 people voted on election day, with 1,475 people voting early or absentee in Osceola County. There were a total of 3,347 that voted in the election. That means about 44% of Osceola County voters voted early or absentee.

Osceola County Auditor and Commissioner of Elections Rochelle Van Tilburg tells us the 2020 turnout was higher than four years ago. She says in 2016 Osceola County had a turnout of 2,375 voted at the polls and 876 absentees. She says she believes the record of absentee voting was broken with this election, “…but of course that was because of COVID.”

Lyon County had 79.69% turnout. The figures tell us that there are 8,318 active and 371 inactive registered voters in the county. They say 3,546 Lyon County citizens voted on election day, with nearly the same number voting early or absentee — with 3,378 choosing that option. There were a total of 6,924 who voted in the election. That means about 48.8% of voters in Lyon County voted early or absentee.

Lyon County Auditor and Commissioner of Elections Jen Smit tells us that absentee voting was higher this year, but not overall turnout. In the last Presidential Election in 2016, she says Lyon County had just slightly higher turnout at 79.94%. That year, 2,023 absentee ballots were sent out, with 1,966 ballots received back. Out of the total voter count of 6,431 in 2016, 4,465 people voted at the polls on Election Day. So that’s 69.4% voting at the polls, and 30.6% voting absentee that year.

December 1, 2020 - 1:22 pm - Posted in News

Inwood, Iowa — A Sheldon man was injured in an accident south of Inwood on Saturday.

According to the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office, about 11 a.m., 57-year-old Ezequiel Ocampo of Sheldon was driving a 2015 Toyota Highlander Northbound on Highway 18. They tell us that 21-year-old Kendrick Van Kekerix of Inwood was driving a 2013 Chevrolet Silverado pickup eastbound on 270th Street, also known as the Sioux-Lyon county line road.

The deputy’s report says Ocampo struck the Van Kekerix pickup in the intersection.

Ocampo was injured in the crash and was taken to a hospital.

Both vehicles were a total loss.

The Lyon County Sheriff’s Office says the accident is still under investigation.

They tell us that the Inwood Fire Department and Rescue Squad and the Canton-Inwood Ambulance Squad assisted with the response to the accident.

December 1, 2020 - 11:40 am - Posted in News

Washington, D.C. — Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley says he’s been cleared by his doctors to return to work after being in quarantine following a positive COVID test earlier this month.

Grassley, who is 87, says “the disease affects people differently,” and he did not experience any symptoms. He took a COVID test after learning he had been exposed to someone else who tested positive for the virus.

In a written statement, Grassley cited “positive…news” about a COVID vaccine, but said he’ll continue to wear a mask and practice social distancing and he urged Americans to remain vigilant in protecting themselves and others from the virus.

Iowa’s senior senator also said Congress “must do its part and pass long overdue relief legislation to help families, businesses and communities get through this crisis.”

December 1, 2020 - 10:50 am - Posted in News

Rock Rapids, Iowa — A Rock Rapids woman was injured Monday evening in a single-vehicle crash near Rock Rapids.

According to the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office, at 7:39 Monday evening 28-year-old Katherine Jane Kassel, of Rock Rapids, was northbound on K-52 just south of Rock Rapids in a 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser when she went off the sharp curve, struck the ditch and rolled, coming to rest on its roof.

Deputies say Kassel was transported to Avera Rock Rapids by the Lyon County Ambulance.

Authorities termed the PT Cruiser a total loss.

The Lyon County Sheriff’s office was assisted by Rock Rapids Fire Department, Lyon County Ambulance and Trackside Towing.

November 30, 2020 - 3:03 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — One new death and forty-eight new COVID cases were reported in the four northwesternmost Iowa counties on Monday, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

The death was a resident of O’Brien County again. Sixty-five people have died in the four counties since the pandemic started — Sioux County has had twenty-five. O’Brien County has now had 31. Osceola County has had one death. Lyon County has had eight since the pandemic started.

O’Brien County was up 7 cases at 1297 cases since the pandemic started. Sioux County was up 22 cases at 3718. Lyon County was up 14 cases at 1044, and Osceola County was up 5 at 528. An average of about one in every 11 northwest Iowans in our area has had — or currently has — COVID-19.

Out of the 1044 Lyon County residents who have had COVID-19, 599 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 57%.
Out of the 3718 Sioux County residents who have had COVID-19, 2677 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 72%.
Out of the 1297 O’Brien County residents who have had COVID-19, 816 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 63%.
Out of the 528 Osceola County residents who have had COVID-19, 326 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 62%.

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

Iowa counties:
Plymouth 2766 , up 16
Cherokee 862 , up 19
Buena Vista 3061 , up 13
Clay 1183 , up 10
Dickinson 1395 , up 11

November 29, 2020 - 1:23 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — A total of thirty-eight new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the four-county area Sunday. That’s seventeen fewer new cases reported compared to the previous 24-hour period, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

During the 24-hour period ending at noon Sunday, O’Brien County was up 13 cases to 1290 since the pandemic began. Sioux County was up 15 cases to 3696. Lyon County was up 8 to 1030, and Osceola County was up 2 to 523.

There were no deaths reported in Sunday’s figures, so the death toll from COIVD-related illnesses in our four-county area remains at sixty-four. 30 in O’Brien County, 25 in Sioux, 8 in Lyon County and 1 in Osceola County since the pandemic began.

Out of the 1030 Lyon County residents who have tested positive for COVID-19, 596 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 58%.
Out of the 3696 Sioux County residents who have tested positive, 2665 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 72%.
Out of the 1290 O’Brien County residents who have tested positive for COVID, 810 have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 63%.
Out of the 523 Osceola County residents who have tested positive, 324 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 62%.

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

Iowa counties:
Plymouth 2750, up 18
Cherokee 843, up 10
Buena Vista 3048, up 14
Clay 1173, up 9
Dickinson 1384, up 22

Again, these figures were for the 24-hour period from noon Saturday, November 28th to noon Sunday, November 29th.

November 28, 2020 - 8:50 pm - Posted in News

Larchwood, Iowa — The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission approved five more agreements with sports betting companies and casinos during its meeting this month. Racing and Gaming Administrator, Brian Ohorilko says those companies are looking ahead to a change in registration rules.

(As above) “With the in-person registration requirement going away on January 1st, there has been some rekindled interest in this market. And so, there are a number of sports wagering companies trying to enter this market by reaching agreements with casinos,” Ohorilko says.

In January sports betters have the option to sign up on-line — or go into a casino and sign up to bet. Casinos can have agreements with up to three different sports betting providers — and he says more and more of those agreements are being finalized.

(As above) “Whether it will be January 1st of February 1st — the market hear in this state will look very different in the next few months simply because of the high volume of new companies that we are going to see trying to compete for on-line sports,” Ohorilko says. 

The casinos benefit from their partnerships with on-line betting companies.

(As above) “Typically what we see when these relationships happen is there is an up-front one-time fee that the online sportsbook pays the casino to enter the market — and then there is a smaller percentage of an ongoing revenue share,” according to Ohorilko. “And in some cases there is a minimal annual fee that is paid by these sports books.” 

Requiring sports bettors to sign up at casinos gave a boost to attendance at the facilities when sports betting started in the state. Ohorilko says there was a concern that dropping the requirement would lead to a drop in revenue from fewer people going to the casinos — but he says that thinking has changed.

(As above) “Many people in the industry are starting to think that really one is not impacting the other in a negative way. And because of that, we might not see as much drop off as we initially thought,” Ohorilko says.

He says casinos are still able to make revenue from sports betting through their online agreements, and the bigger concern has been a drop in attendance brought on by the pandemic restrictions.

Locally, Bally’s Corporation has announced a partnership with Elite Casino Resorts in Iowa, including Grand Falls Casino and Golf Resort at Larchwood, allowing sports fans in Iowa to access mobile sports betting licensed by Grand Falls.  Grand Falls Casino and Golf Resort General Manager, Sharon Haselhof says each casino is allowed two “skins” or sports betting partnerships, and the Bally’s will be Grand Falls’ online “skin.”

Statewide Iowa — A computer security expert suggests we abandon using passwords in favor of pass phrases. Jesse La Grew says the old way of creating short, cryptic passwords that you change frequently is no longer practical for most of us.

(As above) “If we have to change our passwords every 30 days, what are we likely to do? We’re likely to write it down,” La Grew says. “We’re going to be putting them on Post-it notes or putting them under keyboards.” 

The longer a password, the more secure it should be from hackers. Some computer systems require passwords that need to be between 16 and 20 characters, which is where using a pass phrase is handy.

(As above) “So how do you get that length of password while still maintaining the complexity required so that a computer can’t easily break into it?” La Grew says. “That’s where the passphrase comes in, where we’re using multiple words strung together.”

You can creating a pass phrase out of a series of words that are easy for you to remember — but hard to guess. It will make your account more secure from most attempts by hackers to force their way in.

(As above) “You can have a very long password with a series of five words that can be very difficult to guess and can take a computer an extremely long time to break into, based on the technology that we have today,” he says.

La Grew says don’t reuse passwords on any service where you might have credit card or banking information saved.

November 28, 2020 - 2:00 pm - Posted in News

Northwest Iowa — Fifty three new COVID cases were reported in the four furthest northwest Iowa counties for the 24-hour period ending noon Saturday, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

During that 24-hour period, O’Brien County was up 15 cases at 1277 cases since the pandemic started. Sioux County was up 22 cases at 3681. Lyon County was up 10 at 1022, and Osceola County was up 6 at 521.

Sixty-four people have died in the four counties since the pandemic started — Sioux County has had twenty-five. O’Brien County has had 30. Osceola County has had one death. Lyon County has had eight since the pandemic started.

Out of the 1022 Lyon County residents who have tested positive for COVID-19, 591 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 58%.
Out of the 3681 Sioux County residents who have tested positive, 2655 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 72%.
Out of the 1277 O’Brien County residents who have tested positive for COVID, 801 have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 63%.
Out of the 521 Osceola County residents who have tested positive, 322 of them have recovered, for a recovery rate of about 62%.

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

Iowa counties:
Plymouth 2732, up 35
Cherokee 833, up 18
Buena Vista 3034, up 22
Clay 1164, up 26
Dickinson 1362, up 18

Again, these figures were for the 24-hour period from noon Friday, November 27th to noon Saturday, November 28th.