Wednesday, August 4
4:32 p.m. – Iowa housing advocates say a new eviction moratorium from the CDC provides a temporary reprieve for many people with unpaid rent
The moratorium is set to last until October 3. It only applies in counties with a substantial or high transmission rate of COVID-19.
That’s a change from the earlier federal moratorium. Eric Burmeister, executive director of the Polk County Housing Trust Fund, says judges will have to decide when a change in category starts and stops the eviction process. “When the moratorium went into effect? When you first become delinquent? When the sheriff comes to move your stuff out? There’s just so many questions that people right now are just scrambling to try and figure out what the rules are.”
As of Monday, the CDC says 77 counties in Iowa had either substantial or high levels of coronavirus transmission. That includes several of the state’s most populous counties, such as Polk, Linn, Scott and Black Hawk.
2:42 p.m. – Des Moines schools day care program closes due to virus
Des Moines Public Schools is among the thousands of school districts scrambling to determine how to both teach students and protect them this coming school year from a new surge of coronavirus cases across the country.
A district summer day care program was abruptly shut down this week following several positive COVID-19 tests within the program. District officials announced Tuesday that the MetroKids program at Hubbell Elementary School is closed until at least Aug. 9, and the school will undergo extra cleaning during the closure, KCCI reported.
Tuesday night, the Des Moines School Board approved a virtual learning option for its elementary students, with officials citing the surge in cases.
“We weren’t planning on that as we were looking ahead to this school year, but in light of recent developments around COVID-19, the increases that we’re seeing … this just looks like an online option for younger students,” Phil Roeder, director of communications for the district, told WOI-TV.
The new option means the district will go into the new school year with an online class option for all grades, since it already offered virtual learning for students in sixth through 12th grades.
Roeder said district teachers will not be instructing students under the new online program. Instead, it will be conducted through instructors with a company called Edgenuity, who will grade student work and provide feedback.
“Students won’t be logging into a class with other students,” Roeder said. “They will be doing the work at their own pace.”
Entry via the Associated Press
8:30 a.m. – Demand up for hospitals with visits previously delayed by COVID
Iowa hospitals and their employees face a number of challenges as they take care of an increasing number of patients with COVID-19.
Dr. Toyosi Olutad, Chief Medical Officer for UnityPoint Health Trinity, says people put off routine health care last year, and now the system is struggling to deal with pent-up demand. “The hospitals have been very busy with non-COVID illness, and if you add on COVID-19, it’s going to be a whole new level of stress to the hospital systems,” Dr. Olutade says.
Even large health care organizations in the region are shuffling patients and beds in an attempt to meet demand. “Missouri, southern Illinois, they’ve been sending patients to Iowa, the University of Iowa, because they don’t have beds,” he says. “So what happens to the people that maybe require care over there or with us? There are no beds because COVID-19 patients have occupied those beds.”
Olutade says everyone who works at the hospital is stressed out. Not just doctors and nurses, but also secretaries, clerks, lab and x-ray technicians, therapists, housekeepers, food service workers and maintenance personnel.
“Many people who were planning to retire in two or three years have actually just retired because it’s been overwhelming for them,” he says. “There’s such a limited pool of nurses available, a limited pool of respiratory therapists, a limited pool of ultrasound techs because people are leaving the health care field faster than new people are coming in.”
UnityPoint Health operates Iowa hospitals in: Anamosa, Bettendorf, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Dubuque, Grinnell, Fort Dodge, Marshalltown, Muscatine, Sioux City and Waterloo — as well as in Illinois and Wisconsin.
By Michelle O’Neill, WVIK, Rock Island for Radio Iowa
8 a.m. – Iowa man arrested during racial justice protest acquitted
A jury on Tuesday acquitted an Iowa racial justice advocate who police accused of interfering with an arrest during protests last year.
The jury found 24-year-old Jaylen Cavil not guilty of interference with an official act, The Des Moines Register reported.
Police said Cavil got in the way as they were trying to arrest another protester during a demonstration last year. Video footage provided to jurors showed Cavil standing next to a detective and demanding an explanation for the other protester’s arrest, despite police orders for him to stand aside. The prosecutor said she respected the jury’s decision.
Cavil said his case and others involving protesters that have been dismissed or resulted in not-guilty verdicts in Polk County show police acted unjustly during last year’s protests.
A Des Moines Register analysis in March found nearly 80 such cases related to the protests that followed the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.
Cavil ran a write-in campaign for Polk County sheriff after his arrest but received less than 5 percent of the vote.
An Iowa State Patrol trooper driving Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds also hit Cavi l as he and other protesters attempted to block her SUV during a June 2020 event.
Entry via the Associated Press
6:30 a.m. – Des Moines Public Schools to offer online option for young students
Des Moines Public Schools is creating an online option for young students most at risk of a COVID-19 infection.
The Des Moines school board approved a $500,000 contract with Edgenuity to provide a self-paced online option for elementary students for the fall semester.
Middle and high school students can enroll in the district’s Virtual Campus.
Superintendent Thomas Ahart says in-person learning is best, but can be especially dangerous for kids with health risks who are too young to be vaccinated. “We do need to be cognizant that there are certainly some state level restrictions that prevent us from doing what we know to be best practice.”
A new state law bars schools from requiring masks. But some parents are asking for optional classrooms where all families agree to wear them. Ahart says DMPS has not gone that route because it could throw off classroom sizes.
6 a.m. – As a new school year approaches, Iowa districts discuss COVID-19 guidelines
With the start of a new school year coming up, Iowa districts are discussing how to guard against the coronavirus. Those plans are complicated by a state law passed this year barring schools from requiring students to wear masks.
Parent Tanya Keith told the Des Moines school board Tuesday night she’s concerned about the risk to younger kids as the highly-contagious delta variant spreads. “I don’t want my vaccinated son to bring home a breakthrough case that infects my unvaccinated first-grader.”
Some parents are asking the district to set up classrooms where all students voluntarily commit to wear masks. Des Moines Superintendent Thomas Ahart says administrators have decided against it so far in part because it would be unenforceable.
Other districts have turned down the idea recently, including Johnston and Ames.
Tuesday, August 3
3:58 p.m. – Hinterland convenes this weekend in Saint Charles
An annual central Iowa music festival that attracts thousands of concertgoers begins on Friday. The event comes as the CDC says the county hosting the festival is experiencing a high level of COVID community transmission.
Organizers of the Hinterland Music Festival in Madison County say they’re expecting around 14,000 attendees for each of the three days of concerts and camping in Saint Charles, with the vast majority of those attending having 3-day passes.
This year’s lineup includes the Avett Brothers and Leon Bridges, among others.
Organizers say the event will also feature a larger footprint to allow for more social distancing. They’re recommending people who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 wear masks. This week, officials in nearby Polk County urged all residents to resume wearing masks in public indoor spaces and to get vaccinated. IPR is a media partner of the outdoor festival.
3 p.m. – 178 applications received for share of $100 million in state broadband grants
Applicants are seeking nearly $300 million in state grants to extend and expand broadband service in Iowa, but only $100 million will be awarded.
The legislature set aside $100 million for broadband projects. State officials say 178 broadband providers submitted grant applications by the July 28 deadline, and the grant awards will be announced in September. Gov. Kim Reynolds says she intends to seek federal funds to supplement the $100 million in state grant money that will be awarded.
Iowa ranks 45th in the country in broadband access according to BroadbandNow.com, a company that analyzes internet access and download speeds nationwide. The firm ranks download speeds in Iowa as second slowest in the country.
Entry via Radio Iowa
12:10 p.m. – Tyson Foods says all employees will be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine
Tyson Foods announced Tuesday that it will require all employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19 by November 1.
The company says the new requirement comes as new, highly-contagious coronavirus variants like the delta variant spread. Nearly all COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are linked to those who are unvaccinated.
Additionally, Tyson says it will offer a $200 cash incentive to frontline workers who are fully vaccinated.
The company says nearly 60 percent of its 11,000 employees in Iowa have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
Meat processing plants experienced some of the largest COVID-19 outbreaks last
year. According to state data, five Tyson plants in Iowa had outbreaks affecting thousands of workers.
7 a.m. – Axne backs Finkenauer in Democratic 2022 U.S. Senate Primary
Congresswoman Cindy Axne of West Des Moines has endorsed one of the Democrats seeking the chance to run for the U.S. Senate seat Republican Chuck Grassley currently holds.
Axne, the only Democrat in Iowa’s congressional delegation, has been considering whether to seek reelection in the U.S. House, run for governor or pursue a run for the U.S. Senate. Her endorsement of Democrat Abby Finkenauer’s U.S. Senate bid makes clear that third option is off the table. Axne and Finkenauer campaigned together in Des Moines last night.
Former Crawford County Supervisor Dave Muhlbauer and Dr. Glenn Hurst of Minden also have announced they’re seeking the Democratic Party’s 2022 nomination for the U.S. Senate. There’s a mid-march deadline for getting petition signatures filed in the secretary of state’s office in order to qualify for the June Primary ballot.
Retired Admiral Mike Franken of Sioux City told the Carroll Times Herald he’s been seeking medical care at the main military hospital in Washington, D.C. over the past few weeks and plans to launch another bid for the U.S. Senate once he gets a clean bill of health. Franken ran for the U.S. Senate in 2020, but finished second in the Democratic Primary.
Entry via Radio Iowa
Monday, August 2
4:45 p.m. – Cristhian Bahena Rivera will not get a new trial
The man convicted in the 2018 killing of Mollie Tibbetts will not get a new trial. Judge Joel Yates issued his ruling Monday in the case of Cristhian Bahena Rivera.
Yates said a confession that was made by another man is “significantly at odds” with Bahena Rivera’s testimony. He also said he was not convinced by the defense’s efforts to connect Tibbetts’ case to alleged sex traffickers.
Bahena Rivera is scheduled to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on August 30.
3:43 p.m. – Polk County reaches high level of coronavirus transmission
Iowa’s most populous county now has a high level of coronavirus transmission, according to the CDC, up from last week’s designation of “substantial” spread. A total of 75 of the state’s 99 counties now have a substantial or high level of spread.
Polk County leaders and doctors are urging more residents to get vaccinated and to wear masks in indoor public places. Central Iowa medical professionals say the vaccine isn’t perfect, but it’s very safe and effective in preventing serious illness from COVID-19.
Polk County Board of Supervisors Chair Angela Connolly says the county’s vaccination rate is still too low to prevent the spread of variants. “This unvaccinated pool of people are also leaving open opportunity to create another variant, one that might be resistant to the vaccine, or one that might be more deadly. As we start to see more large gatherings such as concerts, the state fair, back to school—this is really a perfect storm.”
Local governments are prohibited from enacting city or county-wide mask mandates that affect private property under a law passed by the Iowa Legislature earlier this year. Schools in Iowa are also banned from requiring masks.
3:36 p.m. – Petition filed charging the state’s “English-Only” law
An Iowa Latino civil rights organization has filed a petition with the Iowa Secretary of State to clarify the state’s so-called “English-Only” law.
The Iowa League of United Latin American Citizens, LULAC, has asked Secretary of State Paul Pate for a declaratory order about a state law that requires all political documents to be in the English language. This includes voting materials. The group is ultimately asking that all counties be allowed to translate documents related to voting. Currently only two Iowa counties are permitted to do so. Joe Henry is LULAC Iowa’s Political Director. He says the law has violated some groups’ right to vote. “And it is extremely unfortunate and it really has caused us undo harm.”
Henry says LULAC is thankful it has the resources and opportunity to challenge the law in court if necessary. The Secretary of State has 60 days to respond to the petition.
2:26 p.m. – Ernst concerned military justice system reform may be scaled back
Proposed changes in how the military investigates serious crimes are now included in a larger bill senators will vote on in the coming weeks, but U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst says she’s worried the plan will be scaled back as the bill works its way through congress.
“I’m really on pins and needles right now because we know that the reform has been long overdue,” Ernst says.
Earlier this year, Ernst endorsed a plan to no longer have military commanders oversee sexual assault investigations. The plan also calls for all felony cases involving members of the military to be handled by trained military investigators, outside of the chain of command. Those provisions are now included in a military spending bill that has cleared the Senate Armed Services Committee. Ernst is a member of the panel.
“The House and the Senate will have our versions of the Defense Authorization Act and then they come together in a conference committee before the end of the year,” Ernst says. “Hopefully it stays in through both the House and the Senate.”
For years, Pentagon leaders resisted changes in how criminal cases are handled in the military’s justice system, but President Biden and the secretary of defense have recently said they support having independent special prosecutors in the military investigate sex crimes.
“But the bill we have, it removes all serious crimes from the chain of command, so it would include crimes like murder, child pornography,” Ernst says, “so we think it’s really important that we include all serious crimes.”
Ernst says commanders would still oversee investigations that are directly related to military service, like allegations of dereliction of duty or being AWOL — absent without leave. In 2013, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley signed onto New York Senator Kristin Gillibrand’s bill to remove felony investigations from the military chain of command.
“Happy that Sen Gillibrand was able to get our military justice improvement bill included in the…Defense Authorization Act. Now we hv to ensure it stays in the bill,” Grassley tweeted recently. “…Our troops/military sexual assault survivors deserve a fair system.”
Ernst, a sexual assault survivor, endorsed the proposal this year and the plan now has 66 co-sponsors in the Senate. A recent Pentagon report found thousands of soldiers are sexually assaulted each year, but few file reports and only 350 cases led to an alleged perpetrator being prosecuted in the military justice system.
Entry via Radio Iowa
9 a.m. – Retailer says insurance requirements a snag in E15 switch
A regulatory change touted as a less expensive way for retailers to switch to selling gas with a 15 percent blend of ethanol is a key part of the debate over the governor’s proposed ethanol mandate.
Early this year, Gov. Kim Reynolds called for a state law requiring all Iowa gas stations to sell gas with a 15 percent ethanol blend by 2026. The proposal stalled this spring, but supporters hope to revive it. Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, says his group does not support a mandate that would force retailers to crack into concrete and replace the underground fuel tank that leads to pumps above.
“But there’s a waiver provision in this legislation that would say if you just have to make some minor modifications above ground, we have a state grant program that helps you with that,” Shaw says. “A lot of times, these are $8,000-$10,000.”
And Shaw says already existing regulations from the state fire marshal allow pumps dispensing gas with 10 percent ethanol to switch to E15. Mark Cobb of Brighton owns nine gas stations in eastern Iowa and is installing new pumps to offer E15 to his customers at all locations. He says it costs far more than the $10,000 Shaw suggests.
“I’d have been thrilled if I could have brought E15 into my stations for that kind of money,” Cobb says. “…I have to have insurance on my system…They require that I have a dispenser that is UL listed for E15, which requires a replacement.”
Cobb, who is an investor in a biodiesel plant, too, says he’s not opposed to efforts to “promote” the sale of biofuels.
“However, I’m not a big fan of a mandate or being forced to sell something that maybe consumers aren’t ready to accept yet,” Cobb says.
And Cobb says premium gasoline that has no ethanol in it must be used in some vehicles on the road today in order to maintain the warranty. Iowa Corn Promotion Board vice president Kelly Niewenhaus, a farmer from Primghar, says he’s optimistic the two sides can find common ground in 2022.
“I’m not a fan of mandates either,” Niewenhaus says, “but we need to grow this industry and since Iowa is the largest corn producing state in the United States, the largest ethanol and biodiesel producing state in the United States, we need to send a message to the rest of the country that we support our industries and what we do for our economy in the state of Iowa.”
The three men made their comments on this weekend’s Iowa Press program on Iowa PBS. Three months ago, Reynolds said she’d ask representatives of ag groups and gasoline retailers to meet this summer and fall, to try to come up with a compromise Iowa Renewable Fuels Standard. There’s been no public announcement that a working group has been formed or is meeting.
Entry via Radio Iowa
6 a.m. – The USDA is investing nearly $22 million to support research at HBCUs
Nineteen Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) are getting a boost in research funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the money could have a broader impact for minority communities.
The USDA and Black farmers have had a rocky relationship over the years. But the Biden administration says it’s working on that. It’s investing nearly $22 million in historically Black land grant institutions to support research.
Langston University in north-central Oklahoma got funding for four projects. Wesley Whittaker is the dean of the school of agriculture and applied sciences. He says institutions like Langston have fewer resources than other land-grant universities, but this funding makes them more competitive.
“We can engage in a lot more research and also better quality research. Because of these funds also we can compete for better quality scientists to engage in these research activities.”
Whittaker also says funding like this helps the university engage more deeply with Black farmers. “We take the research results, and we disseminate it among producers, so that their production operation can be more viable, can be more profitable.”
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement the funding will help these HBCUs address agricultural challenges that affect diverse communities.
6 a.m. – Iowa casino re-imposes mask mandate to slow COVID spread
An Iowa casino has re-imposed a mask mandate for its guests to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The mask mandate went into effect at 8 a.m. Sunday, according to the Des Moines Register.
The Polk County-owned casino, horse racing track and hotel was closed for three months in 2020 because of the pandemic. It reopened in June 2020 with a mask mandate but lifted the requirement in June 2021.
The move comes amid a resurgence nationally of the coronavirus. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance Wednesday calling for everyone, including vaccinated people, to wear masks indoors in areas with high transmission risk.
Entry via the Associated Press
Sunday, August 1
12 p.m. – Chicken carcass squabble highlights larger issue in Iowa
A squabble over decaying chicken carcasses in Mason City is drawing attention to a larger struggle between some Iowa homeowners and farms.
Local officials say they aren’t optimistic about stopping cases where homeowners complain about smells from nearby farming operations, according to the Mason City Globe Gazette.
“The problem is the state of Iowa is predominantly an ag state so when it comes to ag-related issues it’s tough for us to do much,” said Cerro Gordo County Public Health Director Brian Hanft.
Dan Breyfogle of Mason City has experienced the problem firsthand. He said that in July, two trucks deposited loads of chicken manure and carcasses on a farm property adjacent to his. The smell was overpowering, and Breyfogle and his wife complained to county officials, public health officials, elected officials and officials from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
Breyfogle said the case meandered its way through several agencies, who couldn’t do much. Eventually, officials from an Iowa DNR field office contacted the offending party and got them to remove the chicken parts. But the DNR only had regulatory control over the chicken remains.
Hanft said his department does two things when they get a complaint: Send the offending property owner a notice, and reach out to the DNR. he acknowledged that, often, the DNR has little more authority than his agency to deal with such problems.
He said complaints are somewhat common this time of year because chicken materials can work as well as a fertilizer.
“It’s an unfortunate sidebar that people who live out in the country and don’t farm are at the mercy of property owners who decide to have that dumped on their ground,” he said.
John Robbins, the planning and zoning administrator for Cerro Gordo County, said officials there take a similar approach when they receive complaints.
“Really the only authority we have is to respond to complaints and forward it on,” Robbins said.
State Rep. Sharon Steckman, a Mason City Democrat, said lawmakers may want to take a look at existing Iowa laws.
“Many of us in the statehouse have considered revisiting this situation trying to balance the farmers’ needs with those of the rural homeowner,” Steckman wrote in an email.
Entry via the Associated Press
Originally Appeared Here