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News of the Day: Latest Iowa COVID numbers released

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Today's headlines

12:30 p.m. - $12.5 million to ‘This Is Iowa Ballpark’ in Dyersville

Gov. Reynolds has awarded the city of Dyersville $12.5 million dollars in federal American Rescue Plan money to support construction of a stadium.

The “Field of Dreams” ball field featured in the 1989 movie is a few miles outside of Dyersville. A $50 million “This is Iowa Ballpark” nearby would be a permanent stadium for baseball games, concerts and other gatherings year-round. It’s a joint project of Travel Dubuque and a new nonprofit. The federal funding, awarded through the state’s Destination Iowa program, provides 25% of the financing for the stadium.

This spring, Dubuque County’s Board of Supervisors committed $5 million from the county’s federal pandemic money for the ballpark.

Earlier this year, a group of investors announced plans for a separate development — a sports-tourism complex in Dyersville. It would have nine baseball fields, primarily to host youth tournaments, as well as a hotel and other amenities.

Reporting by O. Kay Henderson for Radio Iowa

11:10 a.m. – Latest Iowa COVID numbers released

Federal health officials are reporting Iowa’s COVID hospitalizations continue to increase.

As of Wednesday, 323 hospitalized Iowans have tested positive for the virus. That’s up from 309 last week.

State health officials are reporting 7,153 positive tests in the past seven days, which is a slight drop from last week’s number.

Mike Brownlee is the chief pharmacy officer at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. He says illness from the omicron BA.5 subvariant has been milder as compared to other COVID variants. But he says Iowans - particularly those at high risk for getting seriously ill - should still take some precautions and get vaccinated.

“Talking to your provider, using all the precautions that you can, being aware of your surroundings and settings, if you have symptoms get tested.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control. 62.7% of all Iowans are fully vaccinated against the virus.

Reporting by IPR’s Natalie Krebs

9:40 a.m. – Charges filed against man who drove truck through abortion-rights demonstrators

A man who drove his truck through a line of abortion-rights demonstrators in downtown Cedar Rapids in June has been charged.

David Alan Huston has been charged with assault with a dangerous weapon. He is also charged with a serious misdemeanor for leaving the scene. If convicted, he could face several thousand dollars in fines and up to two years in prison.

Huston’s case was transferred to the Black Hawk County attorney for prosecution because Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks was present at the incident.

The incident happened as the protest was ending. Two people were taken to a hospital with minor injuries.

Reporting by IPR’s Zachary Oren Smith

9:25 a.m. – Monkeypox not considered high risk among children

Only a handful of the thousands of reported cases of monkeypox in the U.S. are among children. Even so, infectious disease experts are keeping a close eye on pediatric cases.

Dr. Kristina Bryant says the risk of kids getting monkeypox remains low in the U.S. and parents should not be alarmed. She’s a pediatrician and professor of infectious diseases at the University of Louisville, and she’s paying close attention to what’s happening.

“Based on cases of monkeypox in Africa, there is a concern that young children could be at higher risk for severe disease.”

Bryant says the type of monkeypox virus that’s endemic in some African countries appears to cause more severe illness than the type fueling the current outbreak.

There’s still very limited information about pediatric cases. But health officials say at least the first two confirmed U.S. cases were likely due to household transmission, and treatments are available.

Reporting by Farah Yousry for Side Effects Public Media

9:15 a.m. – Wind turbines may soon be limited in Woodbury County

The Woodbury County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday night to move forward with an ordinance that would severely limit where wind farms can be constructed within the county. The proposed amendment would require wind turbines to be built at least 2,500 feet from county residents.

Last year, the board voted to have a setback distance of 1,250 feet. But, a MidAmerican Energy plan to build upwards of 90 wind turbines has spurred debate about whether that’s far enough.

Resident Daniel Hair says wind farms would be disruptive. More than 700 residents signed his petition to increase the setback distance.

“I'm a fifth generation farmer and my young son at home who's five is going to be the sixth, and I'm asking you guys don't destroy this county for my lifetime and his. Money is not everything.”

MidAmerican estimates paying $150 million in county taxes. The board will hold two more public hearings before the amendment can be approved. If that happens, the company says that would effectively eliminate wind energy from Woodbury County.

Reporting by IPR’s Kendall Crawford

Tuesday, Aug. 9

4:05 p.m. – DeJear on debates with Gov. Reynolds

Democratic candidate for Iowa governor Deidre DeJear is calling on her opponent to join her in at least three debates ahead of Election Day.

A spokesperson for Gov. Kim Reynolds’ campaign says Reynolds is “happy to debate,” and that the campaign will work on the details as fall approaches.

DeJear says voters deserve to see a debate between her and Reynolds.

“When we think about the elections process, that we not just adhere to tradition, but we realize the importance of that tradition, for two opponents to stand on a stage and talk about the vision that they see for the state and what they’re committed to doing for the people which they seek to serve.”

DeJear said earlier Tuesday that Reynolds hasn’t responded to invitations from some organizations that invited them to debates.

Reporting by IPR’s Katarina Sostaric

4 p.m. – DeJear discusses the teacher shortage

Democratic candidate for governor Deidre DeJear says Iowa’s education system needs “damage control,” as some schools face a shortage of teachers and staff.

DeJear says Gov. Kim Reynolds had the opportunity to resolve teacher shortages during this year’s legislative session. She’s criticizing Reynolds for focusing on creating state-funded scholarships for kids to go to private schools.

DeJear says it’s important to invest more in K-12 education and in higher education to train future teachers.

“So there’s a number of things that we can do related to retention bonuses and things along those lines. But it’s going to be full scope, because it’s not just our teachers. It’s everyone that’s making that education ecosystem work being impacted by our failure to fund education.”

Reynolds used federal funds to provide teacher retention bonuses of $1,000 and started a teacher apprenticeship program.

Reporting by IPR’s Katarina Sostaric

10:50 a.m. - Iowa State Fair still in recovery after hit of 2020 cancellation

The 2022 Iowa State Fair starts Thursday. Gary Slater, the fair’s CEO and general manager, says the organization is still recovering financially from the cancellation of the 2020 fair due to the pandemic.

The State Fair lost $13 million when the event was cancelled in 2020, but qualified for an $11 million “shuttered venues” grant from the federal government.

Events are held at the fairgrounds in every month of the year, and the fair has nearly 60 year-round, full-time staff members. Attendance was down a bit during last year’s Iowa State Fair, but the 11-day run of the 2021 State Fair turned a $36 million profit.

“It wasn’t maybe a record-setter like 2019 was, but it came back,” Slater says, “and so we’re not just in fair mode and we’re really working hard to give you a great State Fair in 2022.”

Slater made his comments during an appearance this summer on Iowa Press on Iowa PBS.

Reporting by O. Kay Henderson for Radio Iowa

9:20 a.m. - Iowa company pays $500,000 settlement after whistleblower complaint

Federal officials say a southwest Iowa manufacturer has agreed to pay a $500,000 settlement after a whistleblower claimed the company failed to properly test parts it made for military contractors.

WDC Acquisitions in Creston, known by its trade name Wellman Dynamics, makes aluminum and magnesium metal castings. A news release from the U.S. Justice Department says Wellman Dynamics parts have been used in the military’s Apache, Osprey and Black Hawk helicopters. The federal government alleged that between 2014 and 2021, the company did not conduct required strength and quality tests of its parts and falsely certified that tests had been performed.

Wellman employee Bradley Keller is the whistleblower who sued the company on behalf of the United States. He’ll be paid $90,000. The Justice Department says the claims resolved by the settlement remain allegations, and there has been no determination of liability.

Wellman Dynamics has been in business for a century and has about 350 employees at its facility in Creston. A Michigan-based private equity fund known as TRM Equity bought Wellman in July.

Reporting by O. Kay Henderson for Radio Iowa

9:10 a.m. – An update on the Iowa City Truth and Reconciliation Committee controversy

Iowa City is still reeling over the disparaging comments the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s chair made about the town's older Black activists in now deleted podcast. Now, a faction of the TRC is trying to reconcile the commission with the people left feeling hurt.

First, word got around that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s chair Amel Ali was airing dirty laundry between herself and a Johnson County Supervisor. And then Royceann Porter, the county supervisor Ali was talking about, threatened that if the Iowa City City Council didn’t kick Ali off the commission, she would.

City council members said they wanted to see what the TRC would do about their chair. After placing Ali on suspension last week, Clifton Johnson and other TRC members were working Monday night to apologize and build bridges with the Black Voices Project, whose president happens to be Royceann Porter. Hearing the apologies, Porter said she was ready to move on.

“I can’t move forward if I don’t forgive her. And that’s what I’m going to do. And then I’ll continue to work with you all, whatever it is that we need, to move forward in this community.”

The city council will take up Ali’s removal on Aug. 16.

Reporting by IPR’s Zachary Oren Smith

9 a.m. – Summer nights are getting warmer

According to a study by Climate Central, summer nights have warmed by more than 2 degrees since the 1970s. And this warming poses problems for livestock farming and grain farming across the Midwest.

Recently, high overnight temperatures were part of the reason ranchers lost cattle in Kansas. A rapid change in temperature, along with the cows not cooling down at night, caused heat stress. Hot nights can also cause health and reproductive problems for cattle, says Missouri extension veterinarian and cattle rancher, Scott Poock.

“We've gotta either on the dairy side, provide more heat abatement and more strategic heat abatement. And on the beef side, I've gotta breed an animal that is gonna adapt and function in this environment.”

In the case of grain farming, corn is impacted especially when those warmer temps occur during the reproductive stage of growth. In July, overnight temperatures in Kansas were as high as 82 degrees. And most of the corn crop suffered for it.

Since summer nights are getting warmer across the Midwest, experts say farmers need to take extra care. Now they need to make sure livestock is finding a way to cool after hot days, and new crop considerations should be made, such as looking to hybrid and drought-tolerant crops.

Reporting by Eva Tesfaye for Harvest Public Media

Monday, Aug. 8

2:55 p.m. - Ernst and Grassley oppose Democrats’ health and climate plan

Both of Iowa’s U.S. Senators joined their Republican colleagues in voting against the Democrats’ package of climate and health proposals.

Sen. Joni Ernst is among the Republicans who unsuccessfully offered amendments to the bill. She offered an additional restriction on the $7,500 subsidies for electric vehicle purchases.

“Currently this bill already prevents vehicles containing any parts sourced or assembled in foreign entities of concern like China or Russia from being eligible for the tax credit and my amendment doesn’t change that,” Ernst said. “My amendment simply ensures that our tax dollars don’t subsidize EVs from any countries using child or slave labor.”

Ernst said the critical minerals needed for electric vehicle batteries are mined in areas of Africa where some companies have a history of using child labor. Her proposal failed on a party-line vote.

Sen. Chuck Grassley offered an amendment to modify the federal tax deduction Americans in high-tax states may claim. Grassley unsuccessfully proposed increasing the deduction for student loan interest and the child and dependent care tax credits.

Grassley accused Democrats of staging a reckless, 28-hour voting marathon. He also blasted the Senate’s Democratic leader for scheduling votes this weekend after indicating months ago that the Senate would be on recess, forcing Grassley to miss a family reunion he had scheduled.

Reporting by O. Kay Henderson for Radio Iowa

1:30 p.m. - Summit has easements for 270 miles of its carbon pipeline in Iowa

Starting last Friday, Summit Carbon Solutions began providing state regulators with lists of landowners along its proposed pipeline who have not agreed to voluntary easements.

Justin Kirchoff, president of Summit Ag Investors, said hundreds of people have signed contracts to let the carbon pipeline run through their property.

Summit submitted an application to the Iowa Utilities Board for a pipeline permit earlier this year that would stretch about 680 miles through Iowa. State regulations require disclosure of which parcels along the route are not yet secured voluntarily.

According to Kirchoff, Summit has obtained voluntary easements from about a third of landowners in five states. The pipeline’s Iowa segment is to connect with a dozen ethanol plants in the state, to lower the carbon footprint of the fuel that’s produced.

Several county boards of supervisors have urged state officials to reject eminent domain requests connected to carbon pipelines. The eminent domain process would let the company seize land from property owners who haven’t signed voluntary easements. Summit and two other companies have proposed building carbon pipelines through Iowa.

Reporting by O. Kay Henderson for Radio Iowa

11 a.m. – Farming regeneratively could result in far less chemical fertilizer use

A new study from a team of researchers spanning the UK to Africa says farmers could use far less chemical fertilizer, which can be expensive and harmful to the environment, and still maintain high crop yields.

The study’s authors found that when farms adopt regenerative practices, like planting cover crops and reducing tillage, chemical fertilizer isn’t needed in such high quantities, and that could be beneficial for water quality.

Some farmers aren’t convinced. Ken Dalenberg farms corn and soybeans in central Illinois. He says he’s not sure the economics of regenerative farming would work out in his favor.

“Yes, we can go to regenerative farming, but you have to do it with a profit motive in mind and with my own costs today, real estate taxes today, that's not possible.”

The study’s authors argue that farming regeneratively, including substituting manure for fertilizer, growing nitrogen-fixing crops and growing a bigger variety of crops, reduces farmers’ dependence on foreign-made fertilizers.

Reporting by Harvest Public Media’s Dana Cronin

10:20 a.m. – New report ranks Iowa ninth in the nation for child well-being

The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual Kids Count report ranks states on twelve factors divided into four categories: economic well-being, education, health and family and community. The report ranks Iowa ninth in the nation.

But that high ranking can be misleading. That’s according to Anne Discher, the executive director of Common Good Iowa, which partners with the foundation.

For example, Discher says Iowa ranks first in the nation for high school kids graduating on time, but falls behind in other areas.

“We're 21st on the share of young children attending preschool. We're ranked 22nd on the share of fourth graders not reading proficiently, and we're ranked 25th on the share of eighth graders not proficient in math.”

Discher says these rankings should alert state lawmakers to better fund education and other initiatives aimed at kids.

Reporting by IPR’s Natalie Krebs

9:40 a.m. – Pro-abortion rights demonstrators return to downtown McGregor

A small group of pro-abortion rights demonstrators returned to downtown McGregor Friday, just two weeks after a man admitted to assaulting a demonstrator for the group’s beliefs.

Organizer Kelli Boylen said they didn’t take the week off but instead turned their attention to safety. They moved from the wide-open Triangle Park to a nearby sidewalk, with guard rails to the street. She said she’s disappointed that safety has to even be a concern.

Her husband Scott Boylen was the demonstrator who was assaulted. Friday afternoon, he wore a fluorescent green safety vest. He was the day’s marshal, meaning he was responsible for everyone’s safety.

“And unfortunately, it makes me super nervous all the time now about peoples’ cars or people anywhere.”

61-year-old Ronald Paradine’s charge was upgraded from a simple misdemeanor to a serious misdemeanor assault.

Reporting by IPR’s Zachary Oren Smith

9:20 a.m. – Iowa Department of Education receives grant to support Farm to School program

The Iowa Department of Education has received a $67,000 federal grant to get more local food in schools and early child care centers.

It’s the second time the department has received the two-year grant for the Iowa Farm to School program. The Iowa Department of Agriculture is also contributing matching funds of $25,000.

Brenda Windmuller is with the Iowa Department of Education. She says the department will host more training for school workers on food safety and how local food could be incorporated into school lunches.

“Our big thing is that we want to make sure that the public is aware of what's going on, we want to increase the number of schools that participate in Farm to School initiatives, maybe eliminate some of that hesitation around it.”

The Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa received their own grant from the USDA to expand the school garden and food storage for early childhood through grade 12 students on the Meskwaki Settlement. They’ll also use the funding to develop a tribal food sovereignty curriculum.

Reporting by IPR’s Catherine Wheeler

8:50 a.m. – Planned Parenthood and the ACLU will no longer pursue litigation against Iowa’s 24-hour waiting period law for abortion

The 2020 law was reinstated following an Iowa Supreme Court decision in June that also sent the case back to a lower court to reevaluate.

In a statement, the organizations say they made the decision to drop the case so they could focus on fighting other abortion-related restrictions in Iowa.

This includes a 2018 law that bans abortion at around six weeks of pregnancy, which Gov. Kim Reynolds has announced she would like to see reinstated.

Veronica Fowler, the communications director for the ACLU of Iowa, says dropping the case was a difficult decision.

“It was called or is called a 24-hour waiting period law, but in reality it can delay abortions by days or even weeks because it sets up a whole series of obstacles and delays in accessing an abortion.”

Abortion remains legal in Iowa up to 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Reporting by IPR’s Natalie Krebs

Friday, Aug. 5

10:05 a.m. - Shoppers estimated to save $5 million in annual tax holiday

Back-to-school shoppers will get a bit of a break during the annual tax free weekend, which runs Friday and Saturday, Aug. 5 and 6.

Iowa Department of Revenue spokesman, John Fuller, says during the tax holiday, individuals can purchase clothing and shoes tax-free.

Fuller says he is often asked if the sales tax holiday includes online sales.

“And the answer to that is ‘yes’, as long as you order and pay for the items during the two-day period,” he says.

He expects a lot of Iowans to take advantage of the event.

“So the Department estimates that the Iowans will save about $5 million on this upcoming tax free weekend.”

Reporting by Pat Powers for Radio Iowa

10 a.m. – Iowa veteran reacts to passage of the PACT Act

Iowa veterans can soon get expanded health care coverage and benefits if they got illnesses caused by exposure to toxic chemicals while serving in the military. That’s because Congress passed the PACT Act this week, which says that veterans will no longer have to prove that their illness was caused by exposure to toxins. It’s expected to cost $280 billion over the next decade.

Michael Braman of Knoxville served in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was exposed to toxic fumes from burn pits on military bases and says he developed asthma and digestive issues.

Braman says he’s very happy the bill passedm and that it’s a big deal for veterans. But he says politicians complaining about the cost of this health coverage upsets him.

“They’ll send us to war. They don’t care about the cost then, right? They don’t. But when we come back home, they put a price tag on everything. It’s time to take care of our veterans. It’s time to get rid of the social injustice veterans are going through.”

Braman made his comments during a taping Thursday of IPR’s River to River.

Reporting by IPR’s Katarina Sostaric

9:50 a.m. – Monkeypox declared national public health emergency

Federal officials have declared a national public health emergency for the growing number of monkeypox cases.

Federal officials say there are about 6,600 reported monkeypox cases nationwide.

About a dozen of those are in Iowa, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky says the agency estimates about 1.6 to 1.7 million Americans are at the highest risk for getting the virus.

“When we look at the population at highest risk, we're looking at both those who are living with HIV who are men who have sex with men, as [well as ] those who are high risk for HIV by virtue of the effects of their eligibility for pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV.”

Federal officials say they’ve shipped out more than 600,000 doses of monkeypox vaccinations so far.

State health officials confirmed Iowa’s first monkeypox case in early July.

Reporting by IPR’s Natalie Krebs

Thursday, Aug. 4

2:45 p.m. – Decision around challenged book will not be reviewed by state Board of Education

The Iowa State Board of Education will not revisit a local school board’s decision to keep a challenged library book on the shelf.

Earlier this year, West Des Moines Community Schools board members denied a parent’s request to remove the book Gender Queer from the district’s ninth grade building.

Teri Patrick asked to pull the book because it includes graphic sexual images. But the district argued it is written to be an autobiography, not to be obscene.

By a vote of 5-2, the state board denied Patrick’s appeal of that decision because her child was already a student in a different building when the complaint was made.

The book is not required reading, and the district has said it would honor a parent’s request to stop their child from checking it out from the library.

Reporting by IPR’s Grant Gerlock

2:40 p.m. – Iowa Democratic leaders comment on the Kansas abortion rights vote

Iowa Democratic leaders say a Kansas vote to uphold abortion rights this week shows the same could happen in Iowa.

Kansas voters rejected a constitutional amendment that said the state constitution doesn’t protect abortion rights. Iowans could be voting on a similar measure in two years if abortion opponents get their way.

Iowa House Democratic Leader Jennifer Konfrst says the results in Kansas show an amendment to end abortion rights would likely fail in Iowa, too.

“We know this is an issue that Democrats are aligned with the people on and Republicans are not. And it’s my job to remind Iowans of that. One party is trying to protect your freedom, one is trying to take it away.”

The Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature has approved language for the amendment. Lawmakers would have to pass it again in the next two years to get it on the ballot.

Konfrst says lawmakers should instead consider language for an amendment to protect abortion rights.

Reporting by IPR’s Katarina Sostaric

12:35 p.m. - Autopsy: Family killed at Iowa park shot, stabbed, strangled

Three family members killed during a shooting last month at the Maquoketa Caves State Park campground were shot, stabbed and/or strangled, according to autopsy results released Thursday.

Tyler Schmidt, 42, died from a gunshot wound and “multiple sharp force injuries,” while his wife, 42-year-old Sarah Schmidt, died from multiple sharp force injuries, the Iowa Department of Public Safety said in a news release. Their 6-year-old daughter, Lula Schmidt, died from a gunshot wound and strangulation, officials said.

All three family members’ deaths have been ruled homicides. The Schmidts’ 9-year-old son, who was with his family on the camping trip, survived the attack without physical injuries, but investigators have not said whether he was in the tent when the attack happened.

The department confirmed Thursday that the killer was Anthony Sherwin, 23, of LaVista, Nebraska, who died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after the family was attacked early on the morning of July 22 in their tent at the park campground. Sherwin was at the park camping with his parents at the time of the attack, according to police and Sherwin’s mother.

Investigators said all evidence collected substantiates that Sherwin acted alone, but police have not indicated a motive in the killings.

Reporting by Margery A. Beck for the Associated Press

12:30 p.m. – Dry conditions and drought worsen across Iowa

Dry conditions have expanded across the state, with parts of northwest Iowa continuing to experience extreme drought. Additionally, the worsening dry weather is coming at a critical time for crop development.

Parts of northwest Iowa are seeing a significant deterioration in crop quality. On a daily basis, field agronomist Joel DeJong says he sees corn leaves curling and soybean leaves turning over to protect themselves from the heat.

“Every day that we've got this, particularly the really extreme heat, I think is hurting our yield potential. Significantly more so closer to Missouri and Big Sioux than it is as you go east.”

He expects the region’s yields will be impacted more than they were during last year’s drought. That’s due to a prolonged period of higher temperatures. Compared to last year, the region has seen more 90 degree weather.

Reporting by IPR’s Kendall Crawford

11:50 a.m. – Iowa City’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission chair remains in place, for now

The chair of Iowa City’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) will keep her seat for now, despite calls for Amel Ali’s removal due to comments she made in a podcast.

Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague called a special meeting Thursday morning to remove Ali from the TRC. But the Iowa City Council was split on how to handle the personal back-and-forth between Ali and Johnson County Supervisor Royceann Porter.

In a now-deleted podcast, Ali aired frustration about working with older Black activists in Iowa City, even calling Porter a slur. Both Ali and Porter identify as Black.

Porter has been a critic of the commission since she resigned from it in 2021.

The Iowa City Truth and Reconciliation Commission will meet Thursday evening to discuss the future of its leadership.

Reporting by IPR’s Zachary Oren Smith

10:30 a.m. – Rep. Ashley Hinson responds to the recently announced Inflation Reduction Act

The consumer price index was up 9% last month, which is the largest gain since 1981. In hopes of reducing inflation, Washington Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va, struck a deal involving $260 billion in spending and over ten years, while raising $326 billion.

On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson told reporters the provisions that would raise taxes are a “slap in the face to taxpayers and hardworking Americans” struggling to make ends meet under inflationary pressures.

“With Americans' paychecks already stretched thin, President Biden wants to take even more of Americans’ hard-earned money to pay for his agenda.”

Hinson says she opposed the inclusion of tax credits for electric vehicles and an expanded staffing of the IRS.

According to a University of Pennsylvania Wharton School analysis, the package would reduce the deficit but would have little impact on inflation.

Reporting by IPR’s Zachary Oren Smith

9:20 a.m. - State of Iowa ‘drought plan’ would guide, advise local decision-makers

The state climatologist, the Department of Homeland Security and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources are developing guidelines and real-time resources for city and county officials who may have to restrict water usage during a drought emergency.

Tim Hall, hydrology resources coordinator for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said the first-ever state “drought plan” would leave decisions about limiting water usage to local officials.

“We’re trying to set up a framework that will help local communities, local water utilities, emergency management folks be prepared to deal with a drought when it comes by answering those questions: ‘What should we do?’ and ‘When should we do it?’ and we can provide the data and the information that helps them make those decisions.”

In July, state officials hosted meetings in Sioux City, Cedar Rapids and Creston to hear from water utilities, local communities, county emergency managers and industries that use water. A final virtual meeting was held Wednesday with about 70 representatives of those groups.

On Thursday, Hall will be issuing a statewide summary of water resources. He said water levels in some areas of northwest Iowa are alarmingly low, but the situation isn’t currently as dire as the last major drought of 2012.

Reporting by O. Kay Henderson for Radio Iowa

9:10 a.m. - Northwest Iowa health officials give update on monkeypox

Public health officials in northwestern Iowa released an update on monkeypox Wednesday following the discovery of a case there on July 25.

The deputy director of Sioux District Health, Tyler Brock, says there have been no new cases of monkeypox confirmed, and there is no concern about spread.

“This takes very close contact, prolonged contact, with someone who actually has it. Their body fluids, the sores, the scabs, the rashes. Getting monkeypox through some type of casual random event is really not the way this is being spread right now.”

Brock says the vaccine developed for smallpox is used for monkeypox, and there is some question about its effectiveness.

The northwest Iowa case is one of ten confirmed cases overall in Iowa. There are also seven cases confirmed in the central Iowa region, and one each in the northeast and east regions of the state. In the states surrounding Iowa, South Dakota has one case, Nebraska and Missouri each have ten cases, Minnesota has 38, Wisconsin has 19 and Illinois has 533.

Reporting by Woody Gottburg for Radio Iowa

9:05 a.m. – Linn-Mar Community School District sued by Parents Defending Education

A conservative nonprofit is suing the Linn-Mar Community School District over a policy that allows transgender students to request confidential support at school.

Under the rules adopted back in April, a student in 7th grade or older could ask to use a different name or pronouns without involving their parents.

When it passed, supportive school board members said it put in writing procedures that were already in place based on federal law and state guidelines.

Soon afterward, Gov. Kim Reynolds and Rep. Ashley Hinson held a closed meeting with Linn-Mar community members upset by the policy.

Now a group of unnamed parents is taking the district to court with a group called Parents Defending Education.

They claim the policy violates their right to direct their children’s education. They also say Linn-Mar is violating the First Amendment by threatening to discipline students or staff who deliberately call a transgender student by the wrong name.

District officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Reporting by IPR’s Grant Gerlock