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669 New COVID-19 Cases, 7 More Deaths Reported Thursday

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Follow the latest Iowa news in our Daily Digest, a newsblog where you can catch up on all the headlines you'll hear about in our on-air newscasts.  

COVID-19 Information:

Thursday, July 9

2:16 p.m. - Severe storms down trees and cause power outages in eastern Iowa

Severe storms rolling through eastern Iowa have caused downed trees and numerous power outages.

Mid-Amercian Energy  is reporting more than 10,000 customers offline with those most affected in the Waterloo and Quad Cities areas.  Alliant Energy reports about 3,500 customers without power, most of those are in the Marshalltown area.

 

  1:56 p.m. - Voters forget about voting absentee, try to cast ballots in special elections

More than 300 voters came to the polls to participate in two special elections on Tuesday, forgetting they had already voted absentee.

 

Secretary of State Paul Pate moved local government elections in Cedar Falls and Woodbury County from March and April to July 7 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Woodbury County Auditor Pat Gill says at least 300 people forgot they had already voted. He says this kind of confusion occasionally happens but nothing to this level.

 

  12:37 p.m. - Search continues for missing Waterloo man

The search continues for a former Wartburg College music instructor who walked away from a Waterloo care  center Monday night. 

 46 year old Michael Jensen is described as five foot ten, 180 pounds.  He was last seen wearing a plaid shirt, grey sweatpants, black glasses and a black helmet.  Anyone who believes they have seen him is asked to call the Waterloo Police Department.

 

  12:44 p.m. - Gov. Reynolds directs $50 million in coronavirus relief to mental health providers

Gov. Kim Reynolds announced this week she’s directing $50 million in federal coronavirus relief funding to mental health regions and providers.

The amount is significant but it will only cover one year. 

The executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Health in Iowa says lawmakers should’ve designated a sustainable source of mental health funding before the virus hit, as they promised to address the issue this year. She says it’s becoming even more urgent as depression, anxiety and childhood trauma increase as a result of the pandemic.

 

10:00 a.m. - 669 new COVID-19 cases, 7 more deaths reported Thursday

These numbers reflect a 24-hour reporting period. 

9:44 a.m. – State sees highest weekly unemployment total since May

Iowa Workforce Development reports 10,698 workers filed new unemployment claims last week, including people who work in Iowa but live out-of-state. That’s the highest weekly total since late May.

Most claims continue to come from the manufacturing industry and self-employed workers. The overall number of Iowans continuing to receive unemployment benefits decreased to just over 135,000.

9:14 a.m. – Coronavirus disrupts Iowa high school baseball and softball

Last month, Iowa became the first state to let high school athletes resume competition amid the pandemic, when baseball and softball players took the field.  Those sports move into their postseason tournaments this month.  The effort has hit some bumps, as COVID-19 has disrupted seasons for more than 40 high school teams.

Read more of this story from Katie Peikes.

Wednesday, July 8

12:04 p.m. – State universities work to help international students who were told to return to their home countries

Iowa’s public universities are looking into how to help international students who may be affected by a federal government rule issued this week on fall classes. The rule requires all international students attending online-only classes to return to their home countries.

The risk of COVID-19 has prompted most universities to try a “hybrid” approach with a mix of in-person and online classes.

Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen says in a statement the government’s decision is “unwise.” Winterseen emphasizes the rule only applies to international students taking entirely online classes. She is advocating for a flexible course load for international students.

After Thanksgiving, the University of Iowa will move online exclusively. According to their website, they are currently “seeking guidance,” as to how this structure will affect international students.

In a tweet posted yesterday, the University of Northern Iowa says they are disappointed in the new rule. They are in contact with international students to look for options and resources.

10:00 a.m. - 414 new COVID-19 cases, 7 more deaths reported

These numbers reflect a 24-hour reporting period. 

8:17 a.m. – Des Moines School Board approves new stadium

The Des Moines School Board has approved an agreement to build a shared 4,000-seat stadium on the Drake University campus.

Drake will use the stadium for soccer and is contributing $4.5 million towards construction. The school district will pay $15 million and will play soccer and football there.

A group pushing to renovate existing high school stadiums submitted a petition against the project with more than 7,000 signatures. The district claims it was not enough to force a vote.

7:41 a.m. – Justin Wright wins Woodbury County Board of Supervisors seat in special election

A Sioux City high school teacher won Tuesday’s special election for a vacant seat on the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors. 

Republican Justin Wright took home 53 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results. Democrat and former state Representative Tim Kacena got 46 percent.

The seat on the five-member county legislative body opened after Jeremy Taylor resigned on January 31. The county’s top elections official canceled Taylor’s voter registration after questions about his residency were brought forward.

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate rescheduled this election and two other spring special elections to Tuesday because of the coronavirus pandemic.

7:38 a.m. - Coralville City Council members weigh a mask mandate, opt to 'strongly encourage' mask use instead

City officials in Coralville debated Tuesday night whether they could issue a mask mandate, as coronavirus cases numbers are on the rise in Johnson County. City council members ultimately decided against a requirement, referencing legal opinions by county attorneys and the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, stating that local officials are not currently authorized to issue such orders. The City Council opted for a voluntary approach instead, with plans to "strongly encourage" residents to wear face coverings.

Read more of this story from IPR’s Kate Payne.

Tuesday, July 7

3:54 p.m. – State allocates $50 million of CARES money to mental health and substance abuse treatment

In the past few years, the Iowa Legislature expanded the adult mental health care system and created one for children.  This year, Republican leaders pledged to put more sustainable funding into those systems, which currently rely on property tax revenue. Gov. Kim Reynolds had proposed shifting most of the burden to the state. But the legislative session ended without changes to mental health funding. 

Now Reynolds says $30 million from the federal CARES Act will support the state’s mental health regions. And $20 million will go to mental health and substance abuse treatment providers.

3:41 p.m. – Muscatine mayor defends mask mandate

The Mayor of Muscatine is continuing to defend her mask mandate for the city, even as the governor says local governments do not have the authority to issue the orders.

Mayor Diana Broderson says the Muscatine City Attorney advised her the mandate is authorized under a local emergency declaration, and Iowa’s home rule provisions.

The Muscatine County Attorney has also said local officials are not authorized to issue a mask mandate. As of Tuesday afternoon, city police had not started enforcing the order, as they wait for further legal guidance.

3:12 p.m. - Coronavirus outbreak confirmed at state prison in Fort Dodge

The governor has confirmed there’s a coronavirus outbreak at the state prison in Fort Dodge. Nearly 500 inmates and staff have been tested for COVID-19, and today prison officials report 61 inmates and two staff members have the virus.

Gov. Reynolds says 600 inmates will be tested Wednesday and another 100 staff members will undergo testing Thursday.

“It’s just incredibly important for us to get in there, do the testing so we can understand the scope and, to those who’ve been exposed, do the isolation and really take the measures that we need to take to prevent it from spreading throughout the facility,” Reynolds said during a news conference late Tuesday.

There are 1,101 prisoners in the facility today. Last Thursday, just one inmate and two staff members had confirmed cases of COVID-19, so there’s been a dramatic increase in the past five days.

2:01 p.m. - Gov. Reynolds may consider putting COVID-19 restrictions back in place

Gov. Kim Reynolds says the increase in coronavirus cases among younger Iowans is concerning. She says even if they don’t get severely ill, they can put more vulnerable people at risk.

That’s after Reynolds has repeatedly said 80 percent of COVID-19 cases are “mild” and older Iowans or those with underlying health conditions need to stay home.

She’s urging all Iowans to take public health precautions to protect themselves and others as the state’s daily confirmed cases are increasing. Reynolds hinted at bars being a potential driver of increasing infections, and she says she may consider putting some restrictions back in place.

Read more of this story. 

1:18 p.m. – Sioux City police responded to 79 fireworks complaints over the holiday weekend

Sioux City Police responded to 79 complaints related to fireworks and the city ordinance over the holiday weekend. State law has allowed the sale and use of fireworks since 2017, and cities can set their own rules.

Sioux City allows people to discharge fireworks from private property for a limited time on 4 days each year including July 3 and 4. Some police officers are assigned to actively look for fireworks violations. But Lieutenant Chris Groves says it can be a tough ordinance to enforce.

Read more of this story from IPR's Katie Piekes. 

11:00 a.m. - Watch Gov. Kim Reynolds weekly press conference 

10:22 a.m. – LULAC hosts vigil in honor of Vanessa Guillen

The death of Fort Hood Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen in Texas has spurred country-wide demands for justice. Many are calling for a congressional investigation into her death. The Denison League of United Latin American Citizens, LULAC, is hosting a vigil for slain Fort Hood Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen on Friday.

Denison LULAC president Alma Puga says she organized the event after many people on social media expressed a need to bring attention to Guillen’s case.

Denison LULAC is the first to host a vigil for Guillen in Iowa, but Puga says other chapters are following in its footsteps.

  10:00 a.m. - 273 new COVID-19 cases, 4 more deaths reported

These numbers reflect a 24-hour reporting period. 

Monday, July 6

4:41 p.m. – Eastern Iowa Community Bond Project bails out protestors

Just last week, 17 protesters in Des Moines were arrested and released on bail. They are just some of the 99 people whose bail has been covered by the Eastern Iowa Community Bond Project, in partnership with the Des Moines Mutual Aid Bail Fund.

The Eastern Iowa Community Bond Project initially paid bond for immigrants detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but this year added protesters’ bail since protests often go hand-in-hand with many immigration issues.

Read more from Kassidy Arena.

1:48 p.m. – Muscatine Mayor announces mask mandate, as crowd shouts in opposition

The mayor of Muscatine has implemented a mask mandate, requiring residents to wear a face covering when in any indoor or outdoor public setting, with some exceptions.

The state Attorney General’s office has told IPR that local governments are not currently authorized to issue such orders, and questions remain about the scope of local control during the coronavirus crisis.

Mayor Diana Broderson announced the measure on the steps of city hall yesterday, where a crowd of people repeatedly yelled over her, calling her a “tyrant.”

11:37 a.m. – Translators interpret Governor’s press conferences for Spanish-speaking Iowans

COVID-19 has disproportionately affected those in the Black and Latino communities. For Latinos, this may be due in part to the information available in their native language.

Interpreters and translators in Iowa began translating Governor Reynolds’ press conferences. The interpretation started for press conferences on PBS four weeks after the initial briefings began. Translating and interpreting press conferences helps deliver valuable information about COVID-19 to Spanish-speakers who would otherwise seek it from social media, which is not always accurate.

Read more from Kassidy Arena.

11:03 a.m. – Pregnant Waterloo woman recovers from COVID-19

Waterloo resident Aquarius Bunch had been a healthy 27-year-old working at an assisted living facility when she got COVID-19. When Aquarius Bunch tested positive for COVID-19, she quarantined alone at home hoping to ride out her fever and cough.

Eventually, Bunch kept getting sicker until she landed in the emergency room. She was transferred to Iowa City after having a seizure. Because her lungs were not receiving enough oxygen, the only chance was an invasive life-support procedure known as ECMO. This procedure ended up working for Bunch even though less than half of COVID-19 patients put on ECMO survive.

Bunch is now at home in Waterloo recovering. Her baby girl is due in August.

Read more from Natalie Krebs. 

11:35 a.m. – Black Lives Matter activists march in front of Cedar Rapids Mayor’s home

Local Black Lives Matter activists marched to the home of Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart Friday. Protesters led by the group Advocates for Social Justice chalked messages on the street and driveway in front of Hart’s home.

Organizers knocked on Hart’s front door but no one answered. The group Advocates for Social Justice has been urging the city to act more quickly in establishing a police review board.

Read more from Kate Payne.

11:33 a.m. – 7 student athletes involved in voluntary workouts at UNI test positive for COVID-19

The University of Northern Iowa is announcing seven student athletes and one staff member involved in voluntary workouts have tested positive for COVID-19.

The positive tests come after more than 150 student athletes and staff have been tested.

The university says its statement that all workouts on-campus have included thorough screening, social distancing, wearing face coverings and disinfecting all equipment used. Conditioning drills have taken place in large areas or outside when possible.

All student-athletes who are tested have been required to self-quarantine and are not allowed in UNI facilities while tests are pending. Any who test positive are required to quarantine for the recommended 14 days after the positive test. Officials say football players, volleyball players and both men’s and women’s basketball team members are all on campus.

10:00 a.m. - 413 new COVID-19 cases reported Monday

These numbers reflect a 24-hour reporting period. 

Sunday, July 5

10:00 a.m. - 321 new COVID-19 cases reported

There were 567 new cases reported Saturday, along with one new death. On Friday, there were 389 new cases reported as the state surpassed 30,000 cases as new cases continued to trend upward. 

These numbers reflect a 24-hour reporting period.