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Iowa ACLU, Disability Rights Groups Sue State Officials To Overturn Ban On School Mask Mandates

Daily Digest

Friday, September 3

2:40 p.m. - Recent rains make some rivers dangerous for holiday weekend use

If your holiday weekend plans involve paddling kayaks or canoes, there are areas of Iowa experts say you should avoid.

Todd Robertson, paddling instructor and outreach coordinator for Rivers Programs at the Iowa DNR, says the recent rains across northern Iowa have led to near-record flooding on some waterways in that region. “In northeast Iowa and eastern Iowa, we have rivers that are extremely high and dangerous. Paddling on those is not a good idea at this time,” Robertson says. “Then, you look at rivers here in central or western Iowa and we’ve got rivers that are actually still super low.”

Swollen rivers are very powerful and produce unpredictable currents along with tons of wood debris coming downstream to form big piles of limbs called “strainers.” Those strainers are the number-one hazard on Iowa’s rivers and streams, Robertson says, and they can be deadly.

“You really have to have paddling skill to know how to navigate around these things,” Robertson says. “It’s a lot easier to navigate around them when the rivers are a little bit lower, but when you’re on a high, fast river after a rainfall, you can easily get sucked into these things.”

All paddlers, especially those who are relatively inexperienced, are urged to check with a local county conservation board to learn about water conditions before heading out. “This weekend, depending on what part of the state you’re in, you’re going to want to stick to just paddling on the lakes and just enjoying the flat water, because a lot of these rivers are too high,” Robertson says. “Here in central Iowa, if you look at the Raccoon River, it’s still extremely low to where you may still bottom out.”

No matter how good of a swimmer you might be, he says everyone who’s on the water should wear a life jacket.

Entry via Matt Kelley for Radio Iowa

2:07 p.m. - Iowa ACLU, disability rights groups sue state officials to overturn ban on school mask mandates

The ACLU of Iowa and disability rights groups are suing state officials in federal court to overturn a statewide ban on school mask mandates.

ACLU attorney Susan Mizner says many disabled students have chronic conditions that make the coronavirus a severe health threat. But she says they still have the right to learn in-person and to ask classmates to wear masks, as the CDC recommends.

“If the student needs the school to do something that’s reasonable, and following public health guidelines is pretty reasonable, they must do that in order to allow the students with disabilities access to their education.”

The lawsuit was filed for a group of 11 Iowa parents of students with disabilities who say the ban discriminates against their children.

A parent from Council Bluffs filed a similar court challenge last week. The U.S. Department of Education is also investigating whether laws in Iowa and four other states violate federal anti-discrimination laws.

9:30 a.m. - Axne supports roll back of inheritance tax changes Biden proposes

U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, D-West Des Moines, says she’d like to see a proposed tax change get rolled back, so it applies only to the country’s richest families.

President Joe Biden has proposed treating the transfer of inherited property as if it were a sale, so capital gains taxes would be collected. Individuals would be able to inherit $1 million worth of property and couples up to $2 million worth of land or buildings, but Axne says that’s not a big enough exemption for family farms.

“Let’s say the farm was, I don’t know, $1000 an acre when they first got it and now it’s $7000 — so it’s a $6000 increase per acre and they’ve got 500 acres. You’re talking a lot of money that you’ve got to pay the taxes on. If you do that, you may end up having to sell some of the land to pay the taxes,” Axne says. “What we don’t want is to sell family farms.”

Axne says small business owners also could be prevented from passing their business onto the next generation.

“I look at this as a Main Street issue,” Axne says, “and we’ve got to get this fixed.”

Axne says it’s not just an issue in rural America. She cites as an example a couple who bought a property in the Bronx and have run a bodega for decades, as they would be unlikely to be able to pass the small convenience store onto their children or grandchildren.

“Let’s say they bought it back in the day for a couple of hundred thousand dollars 50 years ago and now with all the gentrification, everything in the Bronx, it could be worth $4 million,” Axne says. “They will not be able to pay the taxes on $3.8 million. Who’s going to come in there? 7-Eleven — it’s going to be a large company — so this is an issue across this country.”

Axne made her comments after a meeting in Adel with representatives of more than a dozen farm and ag-related organizations.

Entry via O. Kay Henderson for Radio Iowa

9 a.m. - Governor seeks to overturn ruling that upheld abortion rights in Iowa

Gov. Kim Reynolds is asking the Iowa Supreme Court to overturn a 2018 ruling that said Iowa women have a fundamental right to an abortion.

Reynolds, a Republican, issued a written statement Thursday calling the court’s 2018 ruling “one of the most liberal abortion decisions in the country.” In June, a district court judge cited that 2018 Iowa Supreme Court ruling as he struck down a law Reynolds signed in 2020 that would have required a waiting period for abortions. The state is appealing the district court’s ruling.

A legal brief attorneys for the state filed August 24 argues U.S. case law on abortion is based on the federal constitution and the court’s 2018 ruling was “the definition of erratic.” The court ruled that under Iowa’s constitution, women have a right to an abortion in Iowa. The make-up of the court has changed since that 2018 decision, though. Governor Reynolds has appointed four of the seven justices serving on the Iowa Supreme Court today.

Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, says it’s time for Iowans “to make their voices heard in opposition to extreme abortion laws,” like a new Texas law banning abortions after the sixth week of a pregnancy. The Texas law gives its citizens the right to sue anyone they think is violating the law.

Earlier this week, the Associated Press reported 60 Republican members of the Iowa legislature have signed onto a brief that asked Iowa’s Supreme Court to overturn its 2018 ruling that upheld abortion rights.

Entry via O. Kay Henderson for Radio Iowa

Thursday, September 2

3:21 p.m. – Iowa Democrats criticize state’s mask mandate ban

State Democrats are criticizing the state’s ban on mask mandates in schools as the number of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations continues to rise.

State health officials reported this week more than 500 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 as kids return to school.

At a press conference Thursday, Reynolds said there are data on both sides for masks.

But Rep. Ross Wilburn, D-Anes, who is the chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, says Reynolds isn’t listening to top health experts. “The American Academy of Pediatrics, the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic and the Centers for Disease Control, just to name a few, have all recommended a multi-part approach in responding to the pandemic. And that includes masks.”

Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, criticized Reynolds for signing a bill into law last May that prevents school districts from enacting mask mandates. “Just stop telling Iowans what to do, and let Iowans make their own decisions about the health and safety of their schoolchildren and their communities. If we have learned anything about the fight against COVID-19, it's that one size fits all policies don't work.”

Reynolds is encouraging all Iowans to get vaccinated, but Thursday said she is not currently adding any mitigation strategies.

3:15 p.m. - At news conference, Reynolds declines to recommend that kids wear masks at school

Gov. Kim Reynolds declined Thursday to recommend that kids wear masks in schools, even though she made that recommendation a year ago.

Reynolds has defended the state’s law that bans schools from mandating masks amid a federal civil rights investigation.

At a news conference Thursday, Iowa Department of Public Health Director Kelly Garcia was asked if she recommends that students wear masks.

Reynolds answered the question herself. “It doesn’t really matter because it’s law at this point. It is a law…it is a law that elected officials that are elected by Iowans and constituents across this state, listened to the people that they represent, passed a bill, sent it to my desk and it was signed into law.”

Iowa law doesn’t specifically ban recommending masks, but it bans mandates.

Garcia later said she sends her kids to school in masks because she doesn’t want them to get sick, but she stopped short of recommending masks for all kids.

The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend all students wear masks in school.

2:04 p.m. - 22 percent of this past week’s COVID cases in Iowa among those under 18

Gov. Kim Reynolds says there is “no cause for panic” about the rise in COVID-19 cases in Iowa, especially among children and teenagers, and no need to change the state law which prevents mask mandates in schools.

“The virus — it’s here to stay,” Reynolds said late Thursday morning, “which means we have to find a way to live with it in a responsible, balanced and sustainable way.”

During a news conference in her statehouse office, Reynolds said “it’s obvious” vaccines are the best tool to counter COVID-19 and that’s why she got a vaccine this spring, but she said some Iowans may have “really justified reasons” for not getting vaccinated.

“I believe the government’s role in a public health crisis is to provide the public reliable information so that they can make their own informed decisions, “Reynolds said. “I also believe this approach is more effective than mandates that attempt to dictate other people’s behavior.”

The governor told reporters Iowa’s vaccination rate is rising — by about “a tenth” of a percent per day — and Reynolds said she’s leaving it up to Iowans to decide how to manage the virus under the normal course of their daily lives.

“Over 18 months, Iowans have come to understand that this is a long game,” Reynolds said. “We know that virus activity can and does fluctuate. We have shown we can respond and adapt without abandoning the reasonable and balanced approach that has proven effective.”

Twenty-two percent of COVID-19 cases confirmed by testing in the past week were among Iowans under the age of 18. Another 20 percent were among Iowans between the ages of 18 and 29.

According to Reynolds, 99 percent of new cases in the state are linked to the more contagious delta variant of the coronavirus. Reynolds said resources in some Iowa hospitals are being stretched by COVID-19 cases as well as other kind of health emergencies and workforce issues.

“In November of last year, when COVID was surging, hospitalizations rose to an all-time high of 1,527. We don’t want to relive that experience and thankfully it’s unlikely that we will,” Reynolds said. “The situation is different now, most notably because we have a vaccine.”

The governor cited federal data indicating 66.4 percent of Iowans above the age of 12 have had at least one dose of a Covid vaccine. The Iowa Department of Public Health’s website shows 49.2 percent of Iowa residents are fully vaccinated.

Entry via O. Kay Henderson for Radio Iowa

12 p.m. – Doug Jensen to return to jail for violating conditions of court-ordered release

An Iowa man arrested for alleged involvement in the January 6 U.S. Capitol riot is headed back to jail after violating the conditions of his court-ordered release.

Doug Jensen of Des Moines was released from prison in July, after claiming he was a victim of QAnon conspiracies he no longer believed. The judge in the case allowed him to go home to await trail as long as he never went online.

But when a pretrial services officer visited Jensen’s home a few weeks later, he was on his wife’s smart phone. And Jensen admitted he had watched videos promoting false conspiracies of election fraud.

Judge Timothy Kelly ordered Jensen back to jail, saying he has no reason to believe he’ll follow court orders in the future.

It was unclear from the hearing whether he will be detained in Iowa.

Jensen is accused of being one of the first people to break into the capitol and among the last to leave the rotunda. He faces seven charges, including obstruction of law enforcement and assaulting or resisting an officer.

11:37 a.m. - State officials say they will update Iowa coronavirus data website more frequently

State officials say they will start updating Iowa’s coronavirus data website three times a week, instead of once a week.

The Iowa Department of Public Health changed from daily to weekly reporting in early July, and officials say the move followed other states in the region and the CDC’s data reporting at the time.

Director Kelly Garcia says the situation has “evolved,” and she’s hearing that Iowans want to know more. “We know that as the virus evolves, as we see states struggling with high case counts in the South, and as we hit another milestone in our response, it’s time to make another shift. We owe it to you to share and ensure that you have access to clear information. And I want you to hear it from me: that every day, all along, internally, we are looking at critical data points.”

Iowa’s coronavirus website will also start to show the percentage of people hospitalized with COVID-19 who aren’t vaccinated — which is currently 79 percent. The data changes are expected to go into effect Friday.

Gov. Kim Reynolds isn’t putting any new measures in place to try to slow the increase in hospitalizations. She is encouraging Iowans to get vaccinated.

9:30 a.m. - Months after rejection, council OKs North Liberty hospital

Months after it first rejected an application from the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics to build a $230 million hospital complex in North Liberty, a state council has now approved the plan.

The Health Facilities Council on Tuesday voted 4-1 to allow the health system to build a $230 million hospital complex the system argues it desperately needed to relieve pressure at its other facilities.

The council rejected an nearly identical application in February on a 3-2 vote.

The approval came over the objections of dozens of opponents who said the planned 300,000-square-foot, four-story, 48-bed hospital will run community hospitals in the area out of business, because the health care market in the region is already saturated.

Tuesday’s vote was made without comment after more than seven hours of public comment.

The proposed hospital is now set to join about 12 other major hospitals and surgery centers in the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids region. The project will require additional approval from the Iowa Board of Regents and is hoped to open in 2025.

Entry via the Associated Press

8:30 a.m. - Iowa Poison Control Center warns against use of Ivermectin

Some Iowans are ignoring warnings and taking a powerful medication designed for deworming cattle and horses in hopes of preventing or treating COVID-19.

Tammy Noble, a registered nurse, and spokeswoman for the Iowa Poison Control Center, says there’s suddenly a lot of buzz over Ivermectin and the Sioux City-based facility has taken calls from people who’ve ingested it on purpose and by mistake.

“We’ve had a combination of both, of people that are intentionally taking it and people that are not, that have an accidental exposure to it,” Noble says, “so we’ve had both, but it’s less than a handful.”

Before taking any drug to treat or prevent an ailment, Noble says it’s important to consult a physician first, especially before taking anything unapproved. “The FDA has not approved Ivermectin for use in treating or preventing COVID-19 in humans,” Noble says. “At this point, there’s not really good evidence or good proof that Ivermectin is beneficial.”

The poison center in Georgia reports a 700 percent increase in calls about Ivermectin in recent weeks. The drug can be used in proper doses to treat skin conditions in humans and pharmacies nationwide had reported dispensing about 3,600 prescriptions per week. In recent days, however, Ivermectin prescriptions have jumped to 88,000 per week.

“If you’re considering using the animal product on yourself, we do not recommend that,” Noble says. “The veterinary formulations are typically for use in large animals. They are highly concentrated and if a human should take that, that could easily lead to an overdose.”

Taking inappropriate doses of the drug can lead to seizures, coma, and death, Noble says. The Iowa Poison Control Center is available around the clock at 800-222-1222.

Via Matt Kelley for Radio Iowa

7 a.m. - 39 additional deaths, 8,308 new cases of COVID-19 reported last week in Iowa

Wednesday, September 1

4 p.m. - Manchester medical center concerned about increase in COVID patients

The intensive care units of many Iowa hospitals, large and small, are again filling up with coronavirus patients and, just like last year, capacity is becoming a concern.

Heather Ries, chief nursing officer at Regional Medical Center (RMC) in Manchester, says the hospital’s inpatient unit capacity fluctuates daily, and leaders meet routinely to strategize over the facility’s needs.

“Contrary to some perceptions, COVID-19 is not an elderly person disease,” Ries says. “With the new delta variant that is circulating, younger people ranging from their mid-20s to 50s are getting sicker and sicker more quickly than with the previous strain of COVID-19. Seeing young people this sick is very difficult and trying for our team members.”

RMC is having difficulty transferring patients needing higher levels of care to larger facilities in surrounding cities, since those larger facilities are nearing capacity as well. Instead of transferring patients where they typically would to Cedar Rapids, Dubuque or Waterloo, RMC is sometimes having to transfer patients farther away to Des Moines or Mason City.

By Janelle Tucker, KMCH, Manchester via Radio Iowa

3:30 p.m. - Plans announced for soybean crushing plant in northwest Iowa

A new soybean-crushing plant is expected to be built in Buena Vista County near Alta. The facility will be run by Platinum Crush LLC.

“In and around Buena Vista County… (are) some of the best agriculture production in the United States if not the world,” said Mike Kinley, one of the developers, “and producers there would really benefit from having additional marketing opportunities in their backyard.”

Kinley says the project will cost $350 million. When the plant’s done, it’s expected to crush nearly 40 million soybean bushels annually.

“The products that we’ll produce at the plant — soybean meal, soybean oil and a fiber component, which is the hulls — all three products will be sold in the state, but also outside the state and exported around the world,” Kinley said, “and they’re all in very high demand.”

Groundbreaking is slated for later this year. The plant is expected to become operational around March of 2024, and will create 50 to 60 jobs.

The Buena Vista County facility will be the second modern soybean processing facility in the state. Kinley is also leading the development of Shell Rock Soy Processing, which is under construction in Butler County.

By Ryan Thompson, KAYL, Storm Lake via Radio Iowa

1:25 p.m. – Linn County Board of Health urges school districts to consider face coverings

The Linn County Board of Health has sent a letter to its school districts urging them to consider face coverings for students amid the growing rate of new COVID-19 infections.

State health officials say the current test positivity rate is nearly 15 percent, which indicates a high rate of community spread as kids return to school.

Pramod Dwivedi is the health director for the Linn County Public Health department. He says wearing masks is a science-based recommendation.

“It has been vetted through different processes, and it has been found to be effective and efficient in containing the spread of disease.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance last month that all students and teachers should wear masks indoors at school, regardless of vaccination status.

The Iowa legislature enacted a law last May that prohibits school districts from issuing mask mandates. Last month, the U.S. Department of Education sent a warning to five states, including Iowa, that the ban could violate students’ civil rights.

12:32 p.m. – Food experts discuss food insecurity at Iowa Hunger Summit

Food experts from across the country met virtually Wednesday for the fifteenth Iowa Hunger Summit, where they discussed how to address food insecurity in Iowa.

Organizations across the state talked about food access challenges they saw over the past year. They say those challenges were complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the derecho that swept across Iowa last August.

Panelists focusing on confronting the state’s sustainable food needs said Iowa can do better when reaching out to underrepresented communities.

Zuli Garcia is the founding president of Knock and Drop Iowa, which provides culturally specific foods to Latinos. She says she has come across multiple barriers to providing food for some of

Iowa’s immigrant communities. “I think Iowa has changed and has made some changes, but we need bigger and huger changes. And the only way we can make them is if we all sit down and we listen to each other.”

Christina Blackcloud is the food sovereignty coordinator for the Meskwaki Nation. She says teaching people how to be food independent has been integral for the people she serves. “I believe this is a good model that we can replicate across Iowa, across the nation, across the world really. How a community can provide food for the people here, the knowledge behind it and why it is so important.”

9:30 a.m. - Iowa, Nebraska companies fined for diesel emission tampering

Two companies from Iowa and Nebraska have been fined for tampering with emission controls for hundreds of customers, the Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday.

The companies — Midwest Truck Products of Cantril, Iowa; and South Central Diesel Inc. of Holdrege, Nebraska — installed or sold “defeat devices” that make emission controls inoperative, the EPA said.

“Aftermarket defeat devices are a significant contributor to harmful air pollution,” said Diane Huffman, acting director of EPA Region 7’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division in Lenexa, Kansas. “These illegal practices also impede federal, state, and local efforts to implement air quality standards that protect public health.”

Midwest Truck Products will pay a $75,000 penalty and South Central Diesel Inc. will pay a $50,954 fine. The EPA said the companies tampered with vehicles or sold the “defeat devices” to hundreds of customers.

The companies also certified that they have stopped disabling vehicle emission controls.

Entry via the Associated Press

8 a.m. - Hurricane Ida could impact Iowa gas prices

AAA Iowa spokesperson Meredith Mitts says the storm forced the oil industry to take action. “The rig workers were pulled off those rigs to make sure we keep everybody as safe as possible. And because of that, we did have to shut down some of those pipelines and rigs temporarily,” Mitts says.

She says it is hoped this will be a temporary slowdown in the supply. “This is a fairly standard and routine thing that happens, it happens every year during hurricane season,” according to Mitts. “So as soon as the power is back online and those rigs and pipelines can be inspected for any damage, and then the roadways are clear and things are returning to normal, we should be getting all of those operations back to normal.”

Mitts says the resumption of normal operations is based on crews being able to get to work quickly. “The only thing that could change that is if there was some major damage — which I haven’t heard of any yet. Or, it takes a really long time to restore power for some reason,” she says. Gas in Iowa right now is averaging three dollars for one gallon.

By Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City via Radio Iowa

Tuesday, August 31

2:40 p.m. - On 2024 prospects, Rubio says he doesn't know what the future holds

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, the third-place finisher in the Iowa Republican Party’s 2016 Caucuses, is in Iowa helping local Republicans raise money.

As for whether he’ll run for president again, Rubio says he doesn’t know what the future holds.

“I imagine in 2024 I, like others, will have to view what the opportunities are and I’ve run for president before, so clearly it’s something that’s interested me, but it’s certainly not something that right now I’m either planning or not planning,” Rubio said during an interview with Radio Iowa. “I don’t know what my life, the world, the country or politics will look like in two years.”

Rubio said his focus right now is on winning reelection to his U.S. Senate seat in 2022.

Entry via O. Kay Henderson for Radio Iowa

2:12 p.m. – Farm Progress Show opens

The Farm Progress Show opened in-person this Tuesday in Decatur, Illinois, despite the rise in COVID-19 infections.

The show alternates between Boone, Iowa and Decatur. It’s one of the largest agricultural trade shows in the country. It features the latest in agricultural technology and draws farmers, researchers and industry specialists from all over the world.

No capacity limits will be in place for the show this year, though masks are required while visitors are indoors. Sanitizing stations will also be set up throughout the site.

This year’s show will include corn harvesting and horse training demonstrations. The show runs through Thursday.

11:41 a.m. – Organization supporting Haitian earthquake recovery

An organization founded in Iowa City has been working to help the people in Haiti still recovering from a major earthquake.

Thousands of people are still recovering from the earthquake that hit Haiti, and are doing so during a tropical storm. Iowans can help them, according to Dimy Doresca. He’s the chair of the board of Community Health Initiative Haiti, which was founded in Iowa. Doresca was born and raised in Haiti and now works at the University of Iowa. “Whatever organizations that you support that work in Haiti, they need…if you are sending them donations, make sure you tell them they need to buy medical supplies, medications, you know, clean water and food.”

Doresca urges people not to have what he calls “Haiti fatigue.” He made his comments on IPR’s Talk of Iowa.

9:00 a.m. - Iowa school mask ban lawsuit amended as feds investigate law

An Iowa woman has amended her lawsuit over the state’s ban on mandatory face masks in schools to include allegations the law violates state and federal constitutional protections, a move that came as federal education officials on Monday questioned Iowa’s ban and as hospitals scramble to care for increasing numbers of people sick with the coronavirus.

Frances Parr, of Council Bluffs, last week sued the state, Gov. Kim Reynolds and several state officials last week in Polk County District Court. The lawsuit seeks an order requiring the state to issue a universal mask mandate for all students and school personnel until a voluntary plan can be implemented that segregates mask-wearing students and staff from those who opt not to wear masks.

A revised petition was filed on Friday by Parr’s attorney Daniel McGinn. It additionally asked the court to declare that the law violates equal protection and due process rights guaranteed in the federal and state constitutions. The lawsuit also claims the law is unenforceable under a doctrine recognized in Iowa since 1918 that holds that schools must be safe by “putting students at risk of COVID-19 and the delta variant for no rational reason. Neither the state nor parents have a right to unnecessarily expose a child to a communicable disease.”

Parr — whose children were set to start first grade in the Council Bluffs Community School District this fall, but will instead be taught at home over their mother’s fear for their safety — asks the court to prevent the state from enforcing the law or at least the section of the law that applies to schools.

The additional filing came on the day that the chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court signed an order making masks mandatory in areas controlled by the courts in contrast to the state law, which bans similar mandates in public schools. The order signed by Chief Justice Susan Christensen cited Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for mask wearing, recommendations Reynolds has ignored when it comes to schools. She has voiced her doubt about whether masks would prevent outbreaks in schools despite significant evidence that they do help slow coronavirus spread.

Entry via the Associated Press

Monday, August 30

3:05 p.m. – Cristhian Bahena Rivera sentenced

The man convicted of murdering University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts has been given a sentence of life in prison without parole.

The sentencing of Cristhian Bahena Rivera comes a little more than three years after he led investigators to Tibbetts’ body in a corn field.

Iowa Assistant Attorney General Scott Brown noted during the hearing in Poweshiek County court Monday that life in prison is a mandatory sentence for first-degree murder. “And I would tell the court that based on the facts and circumstances of this case it is very well deserved.”

After the hearing, Bahena Rivera’s attorneys said they plan to file an appeal in the case.

2:00 p.m. - Northeastern Iowa prepares for flooding after heavy rains

Heavy rains late last week have swollen rivers and tributaries in northeastern Iowa, and residents there were preparing Monday for flooding.

In Elkader, officials had already closed two low-lying roads and crews had begun erecting large flood barriers. That came as the National Weather Service reported the Turkey River rose more than 6.5 feet to 22.3 feet overnight. Flood stage at Elkader is 12 feet.

The Wapsipinicon River at Independence was also threatening to significantly overrun its banks, with the weather service expecting it to crest Monday night at 17 feet — a major flood stage that would affect businesses and homes.

Entry via the Associated Press

2:00 p.m. - Farmers urged to be on lookout for Asian longhorned beetle

This is the time of year when a destructive insect called the Asian longhorned beetle emerges from inside the trees where it burrows.

Iowans are being urged to give their trees a close look for signs of infestation so they can take action, if needed. Rhonda Santos, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, says the troublesome bug usually appears now, in late summer.

The pest typically attacks hardwood trees, including maples, elms, birches, and willows, and once a tree is infested, it usually can’t recover. Santos says the distinctive-looking creature is about one-and-a-half inches long and leaves clear signs if it’s in your trees.

“The beetle is easy to recognize with their black and white antennae, shiny black body, and six legs,” Santos says. “Beetles create round holes and scars in the bark, sawdust-like material around the tree, and can cause branches to fall.”

The beetle is not native to the U.S. and has few-to-no natural predators.

If you spot one, report it to the U.S.D.A. online at www.asianlonghornedbeetle.com or call the agency’s hotline: 866-702-9938.

Entry via Matt Kelley for Radio Iowa

1:48 p.m. – Iowa and four other states being investigated for banning mask mandates in schools

The U.S. Department of Education has started investigating Iowa and four other states for banning mask mandates in schools.

The civil rights arm of the department sent a letter to Iowa’s education director Monday. It says the investigation will focus on whether the state is preventing schools from meeting the needs of students with disabilities because they’re not able to provide a safe environment under the mask mandate ban.

The letter says the U.S. education department’s office of civil rights is concerned students with disabilities who are at heightened risk of severe illness from COVID-19 may not be receiving equal educational opportunities required under federal law.
Governor Kim Reynolds in a statement accused President Biden of picking a political fight, quote, “to distract from his own failures.” She says she trusts Iowans to make health decisions for themselves and their families. The state is also facing a lawsuit from a Council Bluffs parent who’s asking a judge to block the mask mandate ban and allow Iowa schools to require masks.

Gov. Kim Reynolds in a statement accused President Biden of picking a political fight "to distract from his own failures.” She says she trusts Iowans to make health decisions for themselves and their families. The state is also facing a lawsuit from a Council Bluffs parent who’s asking a judge to block the mask mandate ban and allow Iowa schools to require masks.

9:00 a.m. - Iowa ag secretary: Harvest could see extremes on both ends

Rainfall has been below normal across Iowa this year, but agricultural experts say the overall picture isn’t that bleak heading into the harvest season.

Still, the Des Moines Register reports that Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig said this year’s harvest could be one of extremes.

The most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture report estimates that Iowa farmers will harvest a record 570 million bushels of soybeans and a healthy 2.4 billion bushels of corn. But Naig said farmers could see some significant yield losses in northwest and north-central Iowa because of too little rain; and in southeast Iowa, because of too much rain.

Overall, nearly 60% of Iowa is experiencing moderate to extreme drought conditions, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor.

Entry via the Associated Press

9:00 a.m. - Sanders touts spending plan during Cedar Rapids stop

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, the U.S. Senate Budget Committee chairman, is visiting states like Iowa with Republican-dominated congressional delegations to tout the $3.5 trillion federal spending plan he’s helped craft.

“This is the moment that tests our mettle. Do we stand and fight?” Sanders asked an Iowa crowd this weekend. “We will and we’re going to prevail.”

Sanders spoke Sunday afternoon in downtown Cedar Rapids. Sanders said the bill offers solutions to a range of problems like climate change, as well as a lack of child care and affordable housing. He described it in a tweet as the “most significant” piece of legislation since the so-called New Deal of the 1930s.

Sanders also cited the bill’s proposed expansion of Medicare to cover dental visits, hearing aids and eye glasses. Sanders said all the items were within reach if the country’s wealthiest citizens pay their fair share in taxes.

Entry via O. Kay Henderson for Radio Iowa

9:00 a.m. - 2016 Iowa Caucus winner campaigns for 2022 candidates

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, the winner of the 2016 Iowa Caucuses, says Iowa’s congressional races will help determine if Republicans regain the majority in the U.S. House in 2022. He headlined a fundraiser for Congresswoman Ashley Hinson of Marion this weekend.

Cruz said pandemic-related closures of businesses and schools were “madness” and he railed against the tax and spending plans Democrats have developed.

Cruz has also endorsed one of the GOP candidates running for the congressional seat currently held by Democrat Cindy Axne of West Des Moines.

Entry via O. Kay Henderson for Radio Iowa

7:00 a.m. – COVID-19 vaccines impact likelihood of participating in certain activities avoided during the worst of the pandemic

The availability of COVID-19 vaccines has changed perceptions on things like indoor dining and online grocery shopping.

A team at the University of Illinois has been tracking what they call food acquisition behaviors throughout the pandemic. Their most recent survey focused on vaccines, and included questions such as whether people would be more likely to go grocery shopping in-person with expanded vaccine availability.

Researcher Brenna Ellison says yes, and, in fact, the results suggest in person grocery shopping is here to stay. “While I feel like online grocery shopping has been predicted to grow and maybe replace brick and mortar stores, our results suggest that, at least on average, consumers really aren’t willing to replace the in person grocery shopping, at least not completely.”

Ellison says the survey was conducted in March, and that the delta variant could be lowering people’s risk tolerance levels.

Entry via Harvest Public Media’s Dana Cronin.

7:00 a.m. - Housing experts worry about a potential increase in homelessness in Iowa

Housing experts are concerned Iowa could see an increase in people experiencing homelessness now that the federal eviction moratorium has ended.

J’Nae Peterman is the director of housing services for Waypoint Services. Part of her job is running the statewide hotline for housing resources. She says it averages about 550 calls a day from people in housing crises. “I foresee that only increasing now that people begin to receive their notices. Also shelters are already at capacity and have been beyond capacity since the time of COVID.”

Peterman says the state’s homelessness programs are at capacity and don’t have the resources to help the expected influx of people seeking assistance.