© 2021 Iowa Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
IPR News

Amazon To Build New Fulfillment Center In The Quad Cities

Daily Digest

Friday, July 9

2:58 p.m. – Cedar Rapids Gazette to change printing location

The parent company of the Cedar Rapids Gazette announced Friday that the newspaper will stop printing locally next month. Starting with the August 26 edition, The Gazette will be printed by Gannett Publishing in Des Moines.

The paper says subscribers won’t see service interruptions, but the newsroom’s workflow may change, with nightly press times moving by about 90 minutes.

The closure will impact 34 full-time and eight part-time employees at Color Web Printers, and stems from industry-wide consolidation, according to the company.

2:11 p.m. – Three new wardens announced by Iowa Department of Corrections

The Iowa Department of Corrections has announced the selection of three new wardens, the latest in a string of leadership changes at the agency.

Shawn Howard will be the warden at the Newton prison, Marcy Stroud will head the prison in Mount Pleasant and Chris Tripp will lead the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison.

All are internal hires who worked their way through the ranks over decades in the corrections industry.

The DOC has seen a flurry of leadership and policy changes following the killings of two prison staffers, allegedly by two inmates.

In the wake of the deaths, some advocates are raising concerns about what they say are harsh new restrictions for inmates.

1:43 p.m. – New mural completed at the Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families in downtown Des Moines

The word “future” in all capital letters surrounded by a colorful design now flanks the north side of the Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families in downtown Des Moines. It was created in honor of the legacies of both Davis and J. Barry Griswell. He was the former president of the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, which commissioned the piece. Artist Jill Wells wants the new mural to remind Iowans about the diversity of the state. “Diversity, I think is key, because it's our truth and our reality, when we look at the community that we live in, and our global universal kind of community, that is who we are.”

Wells had the assistance of Marissa Hernandez, a fellow artist of color and Drake University alumna. Wells says she hopes people see the public art as an example for how to heal from trying times.

12:30 p.m. - FBI: Nebraska, Iowa see jump in hate crimes in recent years

Nebraska and Iowa have seen a rise in hate crimes in recent years, most of which have been committed on the basis of race and ethnicity, according to the FBI.

The FBI region that includes Nebraska and Iowa has seen a 21% increase in the reporting of hate crimes in recent years, Eugene Kowel, special agent in charge at the FBI’s Omaha field office, said Thursday in a news conference.

Kowel cited an Iowa case as an example of the kinds of hate crimes the agency has seen more of in recent years. In the Iowa case, 43-year-old Nicole Poole Franklin, of Des Moines, pleaded guilty in April to federal hate crimes for driving onto Des Moines sidewalks to hit two children in separate attacks in 2019. Authorities said she targeted the children because she thought that one was Mexican and that the other was part of the Islamic State.

The FBI’s Omaha office has also formed a multicultural advisory council, Kowel said, which is intended to help guide investigation strategies in hate crimes, he said. The council is made up of community leaders and individuals from a cross-section of demographics.

Federal officials define a hate crime as a criminal offense, such as assault or arson, with an added element of bias against the intended target’s race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender or gender identity.

Entry via the Associated Press

11:14 a.m. – Executive order anticipated to increase competition in the meat market

President Joe Biden is expected to issue an executive order that aims to increase competition in the meat market. The White House press secretary said Biden will direct the U.S. Department of Agriculture to create rules to strengthen the Packers and Stockyards Act. That law was made in 1921 to ensure fair competition in the meat market.

Tim Gibbons is a spokesperson at the Missouri Rural Crisis Center. He says the changes are long awaited by farmers and ranchers. “Competition in agriculture is necessary in order for family farmers to get paid not only cost of production, but a living wage on top of that, and that is integral to the economies of our rural communities in our state and our country as a whole”

The USDA is also expected to make rules that define when meat can use “Product of the USA” labels and make it easier for farmers to fix their equipment.

10:22 a.m. – Miller-Meeks applauds state efforts to restrict election laws after claiming she was “cheated” during her 2020 victory

At a GOP event Thursday night, Republican Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks applauded state lawmakers’ recent changes to election laws, which include giving Iowans less time to vote and making it harder to vote by mail. “Thank goodness Iowa changed election law or updated and modernized their election law and election integrity, both in 2019, and in 2020 and in 20[21]….And you’ve done the right things.”

Miller-Meeks also said voters can trust the state’s elections, after claiming she was “cheated” during her 2020 victory. Her win was unanimously certified by state officials, and no evidence of wrongdoing has been produced.

Researchers have demonstrated that election fraud is vanishingly rare in the U.S. Yet lawmakers in Iowa and across the country are using baseless claims of fraud to restrict access to the ballot.

Miller-Meeks’ district had been considered the state’s most liberal and was long held by a Democrat. So far, no Democratic candidate has come forward to challenge her in 2022.

10:04 a.m. – Severe drought level expands to more counties

Recent rains have helped with dry conditions, but they have been spread out and some areas of the state could use much more rain.

The Iowa DNR’s Tim Hall says severe drought conditions expanded in June from 12 counties in northwest Iowa across nearly all of northern Iowa. “62 percent is now severe drought — up from only about eight percent at the beginning of the month,” Hall says. “So that is a significant uptick in coverage of the D-2 drought.”

While the severe drought has spread across the state — the June rain was beneficial. “June was drier than normal. Normally we get about five inches of rain. We ended up getting about three inches. That three inches of rain certainly has helped to push off any of the real severe conditions that we might otherwise be seeing right now,” according to Hall. Streamflow conditions across approximately half of the state remain in the below normal condition.

Hall says other states are in worse shape coming out of June. “As dry as it is in Iowa, it gets progressively worse as you go north and west into the Dakotas and Montana,” Hall says. “And the prediction in the Missouri River basin is that the runoff north of Sioux City could very well be the tenth lowest on record, going back to the late 1800s.”

He says that is a big contrast to the flood fears on the Missouri River in the last couple of years. “The Missouri River is in as bad a shape as anything we’ve got here in the state. And it does not look like they are going to come out of that anytime real soon,” Hall says.

Entry via Dar Danielson for Radio Iowa

Thursday, July 8

3:10 p.m. – MercyOne employees will be required to get COVID-19 vaccine

All colleagues, clinical staff, contractors and those conducting business at several MercyOne medical centers in Iowa will be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Michigan-based Trinity Health announced Thursday that it will require its entire health system to be vaccinated.

Trinity Health is one of two parent companies of Clive-based MercyOne. The company says three of its regions are aligned with Trinity Health for human resources services. Hospitals in these regions will be required to get the shot.

The affected locations are MercyOne Dubuque, Dyersville, Clinton, North Iowa, Siouxland, Primghar and New Hampton.

Employees are required to submit proof of vaccination by September 21. Religious and health exemptions will be allowed.

Original post updated July 9 to include additional MercyOne medical centers.

3:10 p.m. – Axne says Iowa should accept second round of federal rental assistance

Democratic U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne says Iowa should accept a second round of rental assistance money from the federal government as the eviction moratorium is scheduled to end this month.

The Des Moines Register reported that the Iowa Finance Authority director said it was unlikely the state would apply for a second round of federal funding, and that the state has distributed less than 2 percent of the money available to help people pay their rent and utility bills.

Axne says she’s looking into these issues and that Iowans need the additional support. “I talk to people all the time who can’t afford the roof over their head. I’ve talked to landlords who…are having a difficult time. Let’s put some rental assistance into those hands so those landlords who have the affordable housing can keep the affordable housing for people in our communities.”

A spokesperson for the Iowa Finance Authority says a final decision hasn’t been made on whether the state will request the second round of funding.

2:09 p.m. - Iowa families with kids will begin receiving temporary, monthly payments from the federal government

Most Iowa families with kids will start getting a temporary monthly payment from the federal government next week.

U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne wants to make the expanded child tax credit permanent.

An estimated four in five Iowa households with kids can get up to $300 per child each month starting July 15 and going through December. The temporary, monthly payments are part of the American Rescue Plan signed into law in March by President Joe Biden.

But Axne, a Democrat, says she’s working to make the expanded tax credit permanent.

“This is a very wide reaching measure, and one that I believe takes great strides in supporting our families as they try to raise their kids right now, but also shows potential new parents…that having kids is financially feasible, because a lot of folks think that it’s not right now.”

Iowans who filed a tax return in one of the past two years or who signed up for an earlier stimulus check can expect to receive the payments automatically in their bank account or in the mail. Those who haven’t done so can visit the White House website to sign up for the payments.

1:41 p.m. - State will start taking applications for third managed care organization for Medicaid program

Iowa’s new Medicaid director says the state plans to start taking applications for a third managed care organization later this year.

Iowa has had just two managed care organizations for its Medicaid program, Amerigroup and Iowa Total Care, since United Healthcare left the state two years ago.

State Medicaid Director Liz Matney told the Council on Human Services that the state intends to search for another MCO. “We did put up our notice for intent to do a request for proposal. So we are going to be soliciting bids later this year.”

According to the notice, the state is going to release the request for proposals on or around December 22.

1:41 p.m. – Iowa Medicaid officials release funding back to Iowa Total Care after withholding payment last year

Iowa Medicaid officials say they have released $44 million back to one of its two managed care organizations that was withheld over payment issues.

The state announced in January of last year that it would withhold the money from Iowa Total Care after it failed to pay more than 100,000 Medicaid claims.

State Medicaid Director Liz Matney told the Council on Human Services Thursday that Iowa Total Care completed the final phase of its claims audit review this spring. “And we had the report back, and they met the threshold of what we had determined to be a successful outcome.”

The state’s Medicaid program serves more than 700,000 Iowans.

11 a.m. - Vehicle sales in Iowa surpassing pre-pandemic levels
New vehicle registrations in Iowa are up 28 percent in the first six months of this year compared to the first half of last year when the pandemic hit.

“We’ve caught up and surpassed last year’s sales,” said Bruce Anderson, president of the Iowa Automobile Dealers Association.

The number of vehicles sold in Iowa so far this year is 17 percent above the pre-pandemic level of vehicle sales in the first half of 2019. There are about 300 auto dealerships in Iowa and Anderson said showrooms have turned into “empty dancefloors” and there’s no longer “a sea of cars” out in the lots. Anderson said it’s not entirely due to supply chain issues.

“Manufacturing hasn’t stopped, but it has significantly slowed and, interestingly, demand hasn’t,” Anderson said.

Dealers are getting up to 70 percent of the new vehicles they normally receive, according to Anderson.

“Dealers are still getting inventory, but more and more of it is pre-sold,” Anderson said. “You can get a car. You can get a truck. There’s just not a lot to look at on the lot.”

Because of supply and demand issues, there’s been a double-digit increase in the price of used cars and trucks, too.

“Your trade has literally never been worth more and might be worth more than when you bought it,” Anderson said.

The pandemic has accelerated the move to online sales and customer service for Iowa car dealerships.

“Expectations have changed,” Anderson told Radio Iowa. “Everyone of the 300 franchised new car dealerships in Iowa have got a website with a more robust virtual experience than ever before. We’re talking multiple photographs, detailed reports, even videos of the inventory before you ever take that test drive.”

About 8,600 cars and more than 64,000 pickups and SUVs were sold in Iowa in the first six months of the year. That’s the highest number of total vehicle sales to Iowans in 15 years. Vehicles that Iowa dealers sold to out-of-state residents are not included in the data.

Entry via O. Kay Henderson for Radio Iowa

7 a.m. – Iowa soccer team made up of immigrant and refugee boys heads to international tournament
A team of immigrant and refugee boys from Iowa will be representing the state in Blaine, Minnesota at the Target USA Cup soccer tournament.

Torlawoe Monger is twelve years old, and he’s the team captain of Genesis Football Club. Monger says he’s looking forward to playing in the tournament this weekend.

“When me and my mom are praying, she'd be like, ‘Oh, I pray that my son is like, a doctor.’ Then when we're done praying, I’m like, ‘Mom, I don't want to be a doctor, I'm going to be a professional soccer player.’” Monger’s parents are originally from Liberia, and his other teammates have families from many different countries.

Sam Gabriel is the executive director of Genesis Youth Foundation. He’s also stepping in as one of the coaches. He says he is always working on leveling the playing field for children of refugees and immigrants in Des Moines, so this soccer tournament was a great way to do that.

“So you have all immigrant kids coming from Iowa, representing Iowa, that’s something that will probably not happen for a very long time for this tournament,” Gabriel says.

It’s estimated about 22 U.S. states and 20 countries will be represented at the tournament.

Wednesday, July 7

3:30 p.m. - Senator Grassley promises fight to restore year-round E-15 sales

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley vows to work with his colleagues to address restoring the year-round sale of the 15 percent ethanol fuel blend, even though in his words, “fighting big oil is not an easy job.”

On Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed the rule enacted by the EPA that allowed E-15 to be sold between June and September, a move that was encouraged by then-President Trump. “The previous administration made the right call to allow E-15 to be sold year-round,” Grassley says, “and to allow consumers to make their own decisions about what kind of fuel they want to choose at the pump.”

The decision to allow E-15 to be sold year-round put that blend on a par with the popular 10 percent ethanol blend which has been available for sale all year for decades. “Banning this higher blend of ethanol for part of the year never made sense in the first place,” Grassley says, “but it was still the rule and the Trump administration corrected that silly rule that you couldn’t sell it during the summer.”

Grassley says he’ll push for a legislative solution to the issue to give some certainty to farmers and producers as he says the court ruling is a “big hit” to ethanol. “We all know that ethanol is good for the economy, good for national security, and good for the environment,” Grassley says. “This is what’s puzzling to me because I constantly hear from my colleagues, particularly on the Democratic side of the aisle, that they’re concerned about the environment.”

Governor Kim Reynolds issued the following statement after the court’s ruling: “Iowa proudly leads the country in the production of renewable fuels, and today’s ruling is a gut punch to not only our renewable fuel industry but our fuel retailers as well. I worked closely with the Trump Administration to secure year-round sales of E-15, and I disagree with today’s court decision. We will continue to stand up for renewable fuels and fuel retailers, and pursue every avenue to ensure they can continue to offer lower cost, cleaner burning E-15 to Iowans.”

Entry via Matt Kelley for Radio Iowa

3 p.m. – Amazon to build new fulfillment center in the Quad Cities

Amazon has chosen the Quad Cities to build a new fulfillment center.

Local leaders announced Wednesday it will be located in Davenport, along Interstate 80. The 1,000 new jobs will mean a yearly payroll of $35 million.

Davenport Mayor Mike Matson says collaboration by local and state governments, plus local business and economic groups, convinced Amazon to locate here.

"Being able to convince a company of Amazon's size or stature to come to - when they look at the Midwest, think of all the places they could look at and they chose this place," says Matson.

Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Paul Rumler says the 1,000 new jobs, and hundreds of indirect jobs, will boost the local economy by $148 million a year.

Site work has already started, and construction should start later this summer. Completion is expected next year.

Entry via Herb Trix for WVIK

2 p.m. – NRC vote to add protections to Bloody Run Creek, even as cattle feedlot is being developed upstream

State Department of Natural Resources officials have voted to add protections to a prized stream in northeast Iowa, even as the department is allowing the development of a sprawling cattle operation in the watershed.

The Natural Resource Commission voted Wednesday to approve a conservation easement to allow more public access along Bloody Run Creek.

Environmentalists applauded the decision, but say the effort will be undermined by Supreme Beef’s plan to open an 11,600 head cattle feedlot upstream.

“We see that as giving with one hand while taking with the other. So state leadership needs to do more to protect the creek from agricultural pollution if it wants to maintain or increase public enjoyment of Bloody Run,” says Ingrid Gronstal with the Iowa Environmental Council.

Advocates are considering legal action after the state’s top environmental official declined to review her agency’s approval of the feedlot.

Update July 9: An earlier version of this story noted the feedlot would hold 1,100 head of cattle. The correct number is 11,600.

1:57 p.m. - 14 additional deaths, 535 new cases of COVID-19 reported last week in Iowa

12:45 p.m. – State health officials will now report COVID data weekly

Starting Wednesday Iowa health officials are changing how often they’ll report COVID-19 data.

Officials say they will now update the state’s coronavirus website once a week on Wednesdays. Previously, it was updated several times daily.

They will continue to report positive cases, deaths, vaccine information and hospitalizations. But they have removed and archived several pages including long-term care outbreaks.

Officials say they plan to decommission the entire coronavirus website by late summer. They will switch to reporting coronavirus information on the state Health Department’s website.

Officials say the move comes as other states have decreased the frequency that they are reporting coronavirus information. But say they are ready to reinstate operations if necessary.

8:58 a.m. - LifeServe Blood Center short on staff and donations

Many Iowa businesses are struggling due to a lack of qualified job applicants, including LifeServe Blood Center, which says its critical staffing shortage has led to an “alarmingly low” blood supply.

LifeServe spokesperson Danielle West says the nonprofit, community-based blood supplier is facing an unprecedented staff shortage which she calls “scary.” “Unfortunately, we’ve had to cancel quite a few mobile blood drives just because we don’t have enough staff to work there and in our donor centers,” West says. “We’re putting all of our staff into our donor centers and hoping that donors will come find us there because we absolutely still need those donations.”

West says all blood types are urgently needed in Iowa. “Really, most of our blood types right now are around a one-day supply and ideally, we like a three- to five-day supply,” West says. “It’s a scary situation where we really need everybody that can come in and first-time donors, people who have never given it a try, we would love to see them, too.”

The past year-and-a-half of the pandemic has been challenging for many Iowa health care workers, and perhaps some of them are looking to make a change. “We’re hiring in quite a few areas,” West says. “Our donor services team that does the phlebotomy, donor screening, we have lots of positions open there, all over the state, really,” West says. “And in our lab, we have a lot of positions open there as well.”

LifeServe is facing an uncertain future as many big businesses in Iowa that had been hosting blood drives weekly or at least monthly now have many employees working remotely. West says she’s optimistic at least some of those businesses will be bringing workers back into the office in the next month or so.

“We’re also hoping that our high schools and colleges come back in the fall,” West says. “Those were really impacted by COVID as well. We had to cancel a lot of those blood drives and that’s where we get a lot of our first-time donors, those young donors who want to come out and help save lives.”

LifeServe is the only provider of blood and blood products to more than 120 hospitals in Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota. LifeServe has donor centers in Ames, Des Moines, Fort Dodge, Mason City, Marshalltown, Sioux City, and Urbandale. Call 800-287-4903 or visit www.lifeservebloodcenter.org.

Entry via Matt Kelley for Radio Iowa

Tuesday, July 6

4:39 p.m. – Iowans continue to fight criminal charges for involvement at the U.S. Capitol insurrection

Six months after the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, at least six Iowans are continuing to fight criminal charges for their alleged involvement in the riot.

The accused Iowans hail from small towns and big cities, and include a mother and son, a tech company executive and a QAnon adherent.

Investigators have used video footage to link Iowans to the crowd that stormed the building, sending lawmakers into hiding and temporarily halting the certification of the 2020 election.

In the months since, Iowa’s Republican members of Congress have voted against congressional inquiries that could reveal new information about the attack.

4:02 p.m. – New study finds lottery-based incentives do not increase COVID-19 vaccination rates

The study by Boston University researchers found the statewide Ohio COVID-19 vaccine lottery did not increase vaccination rates.

Allan Walkey is a professor of medicine at Boston University. He says lotteries don’t address many people’s deep concerns about the vaccine. “I think most people are probably not on the fence that could be swayed by a weak nudge, like a lottery incentive and probably need more of a stronger intervention.”

Gov. Kim Reynolds has declined to create a statewide lottery in Iowa.

But some local governments like Polk County have created their own. County officials said their goal is to get 75 percent of the eligible population vaccinated by August 22. Currently that number is at 63 percent.

2:30 p.m. - Davenport lawyer replaces DeJear on redistricting commission

A Davenport attorney has been appointed to serve on a state commission that will conduct public hearings about new maps that will be drawn for legislative and congressional districts later this year.

Jazmin Newton will replace Deidre DeJear of Des Moines on the Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission, Senate Democratic Leader Zach Wahls said Tuesday.

DeJear was the first African American to win a primary for statewide office in predominantly white Iowa when she was chosen as the Democrat in June 2018 to run against incumbent Republican Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, who went on to win reelection.

DeJear’s nomination that year elevated her as an Iowa political force when she drew the attention of Democratic presidential candidates, including Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris.

A spokesperson declined to confirm that DeJear is considering a run for Iowa governor in 2022, saying Tuesday she was not prepared to comment on DeJear’s reason for leaving the commission.

Newton said she is committed to ensuring Iowans have fair maps for legislative and congressional districts.

“The Iowa system is based on a simple principle: politicians in Des Moines shouldn’t pick their voters. I look forward to serving on the commission and listening to the feedback of Iowans when the new maps are drawn,” she said.

Newton will join Democratic appointee Ian Russell, an attorney from Bettendorf, and Republican appointees David Roederer, the retired state budget director, Chris Hagenow, a lawyer and former state legislator.

Commission members met in February and March but could not agree on their first task of appointing a fifth member and naming a chairman. The group is required under state law to hold three public hearings and file a report on the input of Iowans on the proposed redistricting map drawn up by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Bureau and submitted to the Legislature. That process has been delayed this year because the U.S. Census Bureau said it will not have final detailed population data for states until late August.

Entry via David Pitt for the Associated Press

2 p.m. - Drake, ISU economists say current recession ‘most peculiar’

Economists from Drake and Iowa State say researchers are on unfamiliar ground as they evaluate how the economy has been affected by the pandemic. ISU economist Peter Orazem says after the recession hit in 2008, it took seven years to return to pre-recession employment rates, but this recession is nothing like that.

“This will be the strangest recession we’ve ever had,” Orazem says. “We’re expected within two years of the initiation of the recession to return to the unemployment rates that we had at the beginning and we had a very strong labor market as of February, 2020.”

Drake University economist Bill Boal says there’s no data yet to confirm why so many dropped out of the labor market when the pandemic struck and haven’t returned once businesses reopened.

“The labor market is surely the most peculiar thing we’ve seen in my lifetime,” Boal says. “…Why were there so many people sitting on the sideline all of a sudden?”

Wage expectations, particularly among blue collar workers, have gone up as pandemic closures ended. While the overall savings rate has soared, Boal says it’s primarily been among those who had jobs during the pandemic. Orazem warns if consumers start spending what they’ve saved, inflation may rise.

“What you hope is that it’s not going to all enter the marketplace at once and you’re going to get this very large surge in customer demand or consumer demand,” Orazem says.

Orazem and Boal made their comments this weekend on the “Iowa Press” program on Iowa PBS.

Entry via Radio Iowa

10 a.m. - Goat yoga record attempt as RAGBRAI rolls through Lytton

The town of Lytton hopes to set a world record on July 26.

Lytton, with a population of around 300, will be the first stop on day two of this year’s RAGBRAI route, as thousands of bicyclists make their way from Sac City to Fort Dodge. Scott Matter, co-chair of Lytton’s RAGBRAI committee, says they’ve done the research with the Guinness Book of World Records team.

“We want to have the largest ever goat yoga class. The current record is 500 people and 115 goats and our goal is to get 800 people and 160 goats, I think,” Matter says, “so that should be a lot of fun to watch.”

There will also be a hay bale challenge in Lytton, too, to see how far someone can toss a square bale. Lytton’s theme for the day is “A Slice of Heaven” — fully leaning into the most popular food item on RAGBRAI routes.

“We like to say it’s the pie capital of America,” Matter says. “We have a group of people in town…who have come together to bake hundreds of pies…and our goal is to raise money for the fire station from all of that.”

Matter, who is formerly of Lytton, now lives in Des Moines and was among the crew who rode the RAGBRAI route Inspection Tour in mid-June.

Reporting by Chantelle Grove, KCIM, Carroll via Radio Iowa

Monday, July 5

1:32 p.m. - The pandemic has made already high backlogs at immigration court even worse

The coronavirus pandemic has made chronic backlogs at immigration courts even worse, as scores of Iowa residents wait years for final resolution to their cases. Immigration attorneys say many hearings were postponed due to COVID-19 and still haven’t been rescheduled.

Ann Naffier is the co-legal director at Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice, which provides free legal services. She says some of her clients have been waiting for seven years.

“If we look online or if we call the court and say, ‘what’s the status of this person’s case?’ Their only status is, ‘no hearing date has been set on your case’. So we have no idea how long it’s going to take.”

According to a national database, the Omaha Immigration Court, which also serves Iowa, has seen the number of pending cases nearly triple in the last five years.

1:28 p.m. - Iowans advised against swimming at eight public beaches due to E. coli levels, toxic algae blooms

Iowans were advised against swimming at eight public beaches over the July 4 holiday weekend due to elevated E. coli levels and toxic algae blooms.

One lake has both advisories in place.

So far, Lake Darling in southeast Iowa is the only beach with advisories against swimming due to E. coli and toxins called microcystins. The lake has struggled with water quality for years, despite a $12 million restoration project that was completed in 2014.

“Why bother to raise $16 million, and get a whole community of people working to create this beautiful lake to make it more available and clean it up, you know, if you're not going to have practices that protect it?” says Diane Rosenberg, with the advocacy group Jefferson County Farmers & Neighbors.

Advocates and researchers say a lack of regulation of nearby livestock operations continues to degrade the lake, despite the millions spent to restore it.

Rosenberg says the pollution is a major loss for families. “I used to bring my children when they were young to the lake all the time. We would go and have a nice afternoon there. I would never do that if I had, you know, small children again. I just wouldn't do that. It's just not healthy. It's not safe right now.”

12:51 p.m. – Iowa City People’s Truth and Reckoning Commission put on pause

Organizers of the People’s Truth and Reckoning Commission in Iowa City say they’re putting a temporary pause on the group’s work, which was meant to be a ‘healing space’ for people of color.

Racial justice activists founded the group as an alternative to the city government’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Organizers say the people’s commission became a place for white residents to share their grievances, which was not their original intent. Group leaders say the commission will resume, after some reevaluation.

9:02 a.m. – Cattle ranchers hope new processing plant will give them more bargaining leverage

A plan for a new, large beef processing plant in southwest Iowa is bringing hope to cattle ranchers who want more bargaining leverage.

Four big meatpackers control most of the beef slaughter. Farm groups say less market competition means lower prices for cattle. But new company Cattlemen’s Heritage plans to build a facility on the Mills-Pottawattamie county line to process 1,500 head of cattle each day. They hope to open the plant in late 2023.

Iowa State University livestock economist Lee Schulz says this will have ripple effects across the region. “If that's the new demand there, the other plants are going to have to bid higher prices or go out further distances, to find cattle to supply their plants.”

Schulz says it’s hard to say how much the new plant will affect prices because markets and production costs are constantly changing.

8:56 a.m. – COVID-19 vaccination rates plateau, hospitalizations creep up in Iowa

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Iowa have remained below 100 for the past two months, but have been trending upwards in recent days. One expert warns they could continue to increase if vaccination rates don’t improve.

Overall, COVID-19 hospitalizations have been decreasing since last November, when they reached record highs of more than 1,500.

“We have to be very cognizant that we have to take advantage of a vaccine and get the vaccine now, before we head into the fall and winter,” says Leyla Best, an infectious disease specialist with UnityPoint in Des Moines.

Best says she’s concerned hospitalization rates could increase because vaccination rates have plateaued and the highly transmittable Delta variant is circulating in the state.

“We need to understand that the more vaccines in arms, the less transmission of the virus among the community, and therefore the less risk of more mutations and less variants as well as threatening our way back to normalcy.”

Best says more than 90 percent of UnityPoint’s COVID-19 admissions are unvaccinated people. The rest have compromised immune systems.

Around 60 percent of adult Iowans have been fully vaccinated.