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Iowa Derecho Storm Resource Center Looks For Permanent Location

Daily Digest

Friday, December 4

2:47 p.m. - Business is booming for Iowa Christmas tree farms

With Christmas just three weeks away, Iowans are taking advantage of the mild weather to decorate their houses inside and out.

The state’s Christmas tree farms are seeing a brisk business as families search for a safe, outdoor activity.

Jan Pacovsky, Executive Director of the Iowa Christmas Tree Growers Association, says this could potentially be a record season.

The August 10 derecho swept across Iowa with winds up to 140 miles an hour, damaging or destroying tens of thousands of trees, but Pacovsky says most evergreens were able to bend with the gusts and not break.

(RadioIowa contributed to the reporting of this story)

2:03 p.m. - Iowa Derecho Storm Resource Center looks for permanent location

The Iowa Derecho Storm Resource Center is looking for a permanent location in Cedar Rapids and an important deadline is approaching.

Even though the derecho swept through Iowa in August, thousands are still in need of a variety of resources. Raymond Siddell is the president of Together We Achieve, which operates the Resource Center. He says they have 11 days to leave their current location because it’s been sold. Siddell says a permanent place will allow them to continue to help people recover from the storm.

The Resource Center usually helps more than 800 people a week with food, construction or other needs. Siddell says making sure the resource center is still operational is especially important as the weather gets colder.

10:00 a.m. - 2,901 new COVID-19 cases, 84 new deaths reported Friday

These numbers reflect a 24-hour reporting period.

Thursday, December 3

2:10 p.m. - Iowa expects first shipments of COVID-19 vaccines in December

State officials announced Thursday that Iowa expects to see its first shipments of COVID-19 vaccines this month, pending their approval from the FDA. The first doses will be allocated to heath care workers and nursing home residents and staff.

The state expects to receive 172,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines this month.

Both pharmaceutical companies are awaiting approval by the FDA for emergency use.

At a press conference, Department of Human Services Director Kelly Garcia said the state will create a team of experts to assist in determining what groups will receive priority next.

Garcia said other priority groups include those in congregate settings such as assisted living facilities and prisons. She anticipates there will be enough vaccines for all Iowans by mid-2021.

12:47 p.m. - Sioux City Police Department now using body cameras

The Sioux City Police Department has fully deployed body cameras for its officers. During a news conference Thursday, Sioux City Police Chief Rex Mueller said police phased them into operation in less than eight weeks. Mueller says the cameras will be turned on at all times when officers are interacting with the public. In August, the city council approved the purchase of 120 body cameras for the police department. Sioux City’s mayor pro tem says he hopes the body cameras help with transparency and equitable policing.

12:13 p.m. - Shoppers should expect a "significant capacity crunch" while online shopping this year

E-commerce paired with a pandemic poses a first-time problem for both shoppers and manufacturers this holiday season. This combination may force shoppers to get creative this year.

As the holiday season approaches, more people want to make purchases, but the supply just isn’t there for some, Iowa State professor Scott Grawe says. Grawe is chair of the department of supply chain management at the College of Business. He says shoppers can expect a “significant capacity crunch” when it comes to e-commerce deliveries.

Grawe also recommends if a store has an item physically on the shelves, grab it, because deliveries most likely will not arrive on time. He says when a vaccine is fully introduced in health systems, we may be able to expect a return to a more normal flow.

11:00 a.m. - Gov. Kim Reynolds holds 11 a.m. press briefing

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds Press Conference | December 3, 2020, 11 a.m.

10:00 a.m. - Iowa reports 70 COVID-19 related deaths, sets new record for 24-hour period

These numbers reflect a 24-hour period.

Wednesday, December 2

4:44 p.m. - Committee tries to reduce number of minority youth in juvenile detention centers

A committee within the Department of Human Rights is focusing on reducing the number of minority youth in Iowa’s juvenile detention centers.

The Disproportionate Minority Contact Subcommittee plans to present an initiative for a statewide policy on pre-charge diversion to the state. This means there will essentially be one more step in the process before a child can be charged with an alleged delinquent act or referred to juvenile court.

Dave Kuker is with the criminal and juvenile justice planning division of the Department of Human Rights. He says making this change would reduce the disproportionate rates of Black juveniles in detention centers. Black youths make up the highest percentage of misdemeanor allegations in the state. As of right now, there are a few local communities that have already successfully done pre-charge diversion.

4:19 p.m. - Direct federal payments keep farmers afloat in 2020

Balance sheets for farms may look better at the end of 2020 than they have in years according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest forecast.

Some expenses have been lower this year, like diesel to power farm equipment and interest on bank loans, but USDA economist Carrie Litowski says it is direct government payments that are making the biggest difference.

Many farmers got checks through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program and some also from the Paycheck Protection Program. Litowski says direct federal payments, which also include trade bailout money and regular farm bill programs, will account for 39 percent of farm income this year, the most since 2001.

3:39 p.m. - Latest White House Coronavirus task force report released

The newest White House Coronavirus Task Force report obtained Wednesday has found new case and test positivity rates in Iowa continue to decrease even though the state still has widespread transmission of the virus.

The newest report is dated Sunday and was obtained by ABC News.

It found the rate of new cases per 100,000 people in Iowa dropped 26 percent from the previous week. However, the state still had a rate that’s nearly double that of the national average and was the sixth highest in the country.

It also found 98 percent of the state’s counties still had high levels of community spread.

The report said those under 40 who gathered with people outside of their immediate household over the Thanksgiving period should assume they are infected, and should isolate and get tested immediately.

It also said the country is in a dangerous place as the COVID-19 risk to Americans is at a historic high. Those over 65 or with significant health conditions should not enter indoor public spaces where anyone is unmasked.

3:09 p.m. - New project aims to highlight how immigrants contribute to Iowa

A refugee and immigrant advocacy organization has launched a project to highlight how immigrants contribute to Iowa. They planned for this to happen just before a new administration takes office in Washington.

Individual immigrants and refugees in Iowa are sharing their stories to help encourage acceptance and understanding among the rest of the state population. Amy Guardado is the director of development for Justice for Our Neighbors. She says she started the initiative in advance of a Biden presidency which, she says could change Iowa’s demographic makeup.

Guardado says she wants this initiative to show Iowans how much immigrants and refugees contribute not only to the economy of the state, but also to the cultural richness.

2:16 p.m. - Rita Hart to file petition challenging 2nd Congressional District race outcome

Democrat Rita Hart will file a petition with the U.S. House of Representatives to challenge the outcome in the race for Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District. Earlier this week, state officials certified that Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks won the race by a mere six votes.

Hart announced Wednesday she would be bypassing a state election challenge process, saying it wouldn’t give enough time to recount outstanding votes before a Dec. 8 deadline.

University of Iowa election law professor Derek Muller called this a historic moment and said some past challenges have taken months to resolve. It’s not immediately clear whether the process will prevent Miller-Meeks from being sworn in.

12:36 p.m. - State announces new arts and culture recovery funding

The new Iowa Arts and Cultural Recovery Program will provide up to $7 million worth of grants to arts venues, creative workers, and cultural organizations who have lost significant amounts of income during the pandemic. The program is statewide and will be administered by the Iowa Arts Council and the State Historical Society of Iowa.

In a press release, Gov. Reynolds said “right now, many cultural venues are financially at risk and this program will provide new resources to help them adapt their operations, maintain jobs, and re-open safely as we return to a new normal.”

Grants provided through this program will range from $1,000 to $250,000 for organizations struggling to recover revenue lost during the coronavirus pandemic. Iowa artists will also be eligible to apply for these grants if they are experiencing financial hardships and lost revenue due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Applications are open from Dec. 1 to Dec. 11 through the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. A list of grant requirements as well as the application itself can be found at iowaculture.gov. Contact Veronica O’Hern, the Iowa Arts Council’s grant services and artist program manager, at veronica.ohern@iowa.gov for any questions related to the application process.

Two one-hour webinars will be offered on Friday, Dec. 4 to provide more information about the grant and eligibility requirements. One will take place at 10 a.m. for music venues and organizations, and the other will be held at 2 p.m. for individual artists.

This will be the fourth round of government funding allocated to preserving the arts in Iowa.

10:00 a.m. - 2,964 new COVID-19 cases, 22 new deaths reported Wednesday

These numbers reflect a 24-hour reporting period.

Tuesday, December 1

5:01 p.m. - Gov. Kim Reynolds sees signs of improvement in COVID-19 numbers

Gov. Kim Reynolds says she’s seeing signs of improvement in Iowa’s COVID-19 trends after Iowa had more infections, hospitalizations and deaths in November than in any other month.

Reynolds says she’s cautiously optimistic that the very limited mitigation measures she put in place two weeks ago are working. Reported COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have decreased, but deaths are still very high and nursing homes continue to see new outbreaks.

University of Iowa Hospital's Epidemiologist Jorge Salinas says he hopes the number of cases will continue to decrease, but Iowa still has a very high rate of new cases and test positivity.

Salinas says it’s too soon to know how Thanksgiving will impact the state’s numbers, when many Americans traveled or gathered with others against the advice of the CDC.

4:23 p.m. - Hundreds of waterbody segments in Iowa are impaired

750 waterbodies in Iowa remain impaired, due to pollutants like bacteria, algae and animal waste according to the latest draft impaired waters list released by the state Department of Natural Resources.

Of all of the segments of lakes, rivers and streams tested, more than 60 percent did not meet water quality standards for at least one of its intended uses, like drinking or recreation.

Alicia Vasto of the Iowa Environmental Council says the analysis shows the state needs more enforcement to improve water quality.

The DNR is accepting public comment on the list over the course of this month, which can be sent to IRcomment@DNR.iowa.gov.

3:43 p.m. - Gov. Kim Reynolds calls for more pandemic financial relief for families and businesses

Gov. Kim Reynolds is calling on Congress to provide more financial relief for families and businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Iowa has about $70 million dollars left of the more than one billion that was sent to the state in April. Congress has failed for months to agree on a new relief package.

Reynolds was asked if she and state lawmakers would spend state money for pandemic relief, considering Iowa has a budget surplus. Reynolds says there’s not enough state funding to make everybody whole.

Some other states have called special sessions to allocate state funding for pandemic relief.

3:17 p.m. - Deadline for eviction and foreclosure prevention program is Friday, Dec. 4

The Iowa Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Program will stop receiving applications for assistance Friday. It is run through the Iowa Finance Authority. Spokesperson Ashley Jared says although there has been a significant increase in applications this past week, they expect there will be enough funds to assist all applicants who qualify.

The program is meant for homeowners or renters who have been affected by COVID-19. On average, applicants have received around $2,000. So far, thousands have already been assisted, but Jared says the rate of applications continue to be persistent and strong.

1:41 p.m. - Expert calls rapid progress of COVID-19 vaccine "encouraging"

A leading coronavirus expert at the University of Iowa is encouraged by the rapid progress drug companies are making on vaccines for COVID-19.

Dr. Stanley Perlman is part of a scientific panel that will advise the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on whether to grant emergency authorization for their use.

Speaking on IPR’s River to River, Perlman said there are no signs of major side effects from the two leading vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, but they can cause flu-like symptoms after each dose.

Perlman says the first doses could be released within weeks, but it will likely be several more months before vaccinations become widely available.

11:00 a.m. - Gov. Kim Reynold hosts 11 a.m. press briefing

10:00 a.m. - 1,906 new COVID-19 cases, 24 new deaths reported Tuesday

These numbers reflect a 24-hour reporting period.

Monday, November 30

5:50 p.m. - Employee at Clarinda Correctional Facility dies of COVID-19

Another Iowa Department of Corrections staffer has died of COVID-19: an employee at the Clarinda Correctional Facility.

This is the second publicly-known death of a DOC staff member. The death of an employee at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women was announced earlier in November.

As of Monday evening, 10 people incarcerated in state prisons had also died of the disease, which has killed more than 2,400 Iowans.

3:46 p.m. - Eastern Iowa turkey company sees rebound in business, adjusts furlough plans

During the first wave of the pandemic, an eastern Iowa turkey company said it would have to furlough hundreds of employees, but it has since seen a rebound in business.

West Liberty Foods processes turkey meat, and like other businesses this year, they planned for COVID-19 to affect supply. But vice president Dan Waters says fortunately the economy has rebounded enough to change some of the previously anticipated precautions.

It had announced in May that 300 employees would be furloughed by the end of the year due to a low supply of turkey. Now, Waters says that number is closer to 250 and the furlough will last five weeks instead of 18.

The planned furloughs will start Jan. 4 and go through Feb. 8.

3:39 p.m. - Mariannette Miller-Meeks wins Iowa's 2nd Congressional District

State officials certified Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks as the winner of the race for Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District on Monday, edging out Democrat Rita Hart by a mere six votes.

But the contest may not stay settled for long. Hart’s campaign is expected to file a legal challenge of the outcome, which must be done within two days of the state canvass.

Secretary of State Paul Pate noted the race is the closest in the country this cycle.

The Hart campaign has said it will outline its next steps in the coming days.

10:40 a.m. - Scott County Board of Supervisors to certify recount results for 2nd Congressional District race

The Scott County Board of Supervisors has unanimously voted to certify the results of a recount for the 2nd Congressional District despite an unexplained 131 vote discrepancy between the county’s initial outcome and the recount board’s results.

The county attorney and auditor advised the board it’s up to the courts to reconcile the tallies, pending a legal challenge by a candidate.

Supervisor Ken Croken said he’s not satisfied with the discrepancy, but he wants the process to proceed.

State officials are scheduled to certify the results later Monday.

10:12 a.m. - People of color in Iowa more likely to see worse outcomes following lung cancer diagnosis, report says

A new report by the American Lung Association has found people of color in Iowa are more likely to face worse outcomes when diagnosed with lung cancer.

The non-profit’s third annual “State of Lung Cancer” report found Iowa falls below average for early diagnosis, surgery and survival rates.

For the first time, the report looked at the disease along racial and ethnic lines. Alyssa DePhillips is with the American Lung Association. She says people of color are less likely to be diagnosed with lung cancer.

But those who are, face worse outcomes and they're less likely to be diagnosed early, less likely to receive surgical treatment and more likely to receive no treatment.

DePhillips says improving access to screenings can help detect the disease early and improve survival rates. The report found about one in ten Iowans who are eligible to get screened do so.

10:10 a.m. - School Resource Officers in Des Moines Public Schools up for review

Des Moines Public Schools is reviewing its agreement with the city police department to provide school security. The district currently splits the cost of posting School Resource Officers (SROs) at middle and high schools.

Critics say the program criminalizes disciplinary problems and has an outsized impact on African American students.

But Hoover High School associate principal Tori Rabe says having an officer on-site can keep an incident from getting out of hand.

DMPS is conducting a survey asking students, parents and teachers whether SROs make them feel safe. The school board is expected to decide at their January meeting whether to end the program or rewrite the contract with the Des Moines Police Department.

10:00 a.m. - 1,200 new COVID-19 cases, 28 new deaths reported Monday

These numbers reflect a 24-hour reporting period.

9:37 a.m. - Update on unofficial results of the 2nd Congressional District race

The closest federal race in the country got even closer over the weekend. Following the recounts across 24 southeast Iowa counties, Miller-Meek’s lead eroded from 47 votes to just six.

Hart’s home county of Clinton was the last to finish its recount on Saturday. She netted two additional votes there, not enough to overcome Miller-Meeks’ margin.

The results are still considered unofficial, pending formal certification by county and state officials on Monday.

Hart’s campaign has not said if it plans to challenge the results in court, but due to the incredibly narrow margin, the national interest in the race, and mechanical issues and errors in multiple counties, a legal challenge seems very likely.

Sunday, November 29

10:00 a.m. - 4,252 new cases and 26 more deaths announced this weekend in Iowa

On Saturday, 2,239 new cases were reported, alongside 11 more deaths, and on Sunday, 2,013 new cases, and 15 more deaths were announced.