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Superbug fungus cases rose dramatically during pandemic

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. cases of a dangerous fungus tripled over just three years, and more than half of states have now reported it, according to a new study.

The COVID-19 pandemic likely drove part of the increase, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wrote in the paper published Monday by Annals of Internal Medicine. Hospital workers were strained by coronavirus patients, and that likely shifted their focus away from disinfecting some other kinds of germs, they said.

The fungus, Candida auris, is a form of yeast that is usually not harmful to healthy people but can be a deadly risk to fragile hospital and nursing home patients. It spreads easily and can infect wounds, ears and the bloodstream. Some strains are so-called superbugs that are resistant to all three classes of antibiotic drugs used to treat fungal infections.

It was first identified in Japan in 2009 and has been seen in more and more countries. The first U.S. case occurred in 2013, but it was not reported until 2016. That year, U.S. health officials reported 53 cases.

The new study found cases have continued to shoot up, rising to 476 in 2019, to 756 in 2020, and then to 1,471 in 2021. Doctors have also detected the fungus on the skin of thousands of other patients, making them a transmission risk to others.

Many of the first U.S. cases were infections that had been imported from abroad, but now most infections are spread within the U.S., the authors noted.

DOT, AAA team up on traffic safety

By Dar Danielson (Radio Iowa)

The Iowa Department of Transportation and Triple-A Iowa are working together to highlight the need for drivers to improve their habits to cut traffic fatalities. The DOT’s Andrea Henry says part of the effort is their “What Drives You?” campaign.

“What drives them to get home safely every night. So whether that be their loved ones waiting at home, their pets, hobbies, or anything else that they’re really anxious to get home to,” Henry says. She says the campaign focuses on some key habits.

“Buckling up, slowing down and making sure that you’re driving chill, which means that you’re not speeding or driving aggressively,” she says, “making sure that you’re sober when you get behind the wheel, and always paying attention and focusing on the task of driving.” Triple-A has focused on the “Slow Down, Move Over” laws in Iowa and across the country. Henry says that the law is also something the DOT wants to remind drivers about.

“Which means that if you see any vehicle, whether that’s an emergency vehicle, or just a motorist who is stranded on the side of the road with flashing lights, you should move over if you can, if it’s safe to do so,” Henry says. If you cannot move over, then you should slow down to a safe speed to allow you to get around those vehicles safely.” Triple-A says nearly 350 people are struck and killed nationwide outside a disabled vehicle each year, and roughly one quarter of motorists don’t know that Slow Down, Move Over laws exist in their state. Henry says the big drop in traffic on the roadways during the pandemic led to some bad driving habits that still remain.

“People did get into some bad habits during that pandemic when there might have been fewer people on the road and there was that perceived bubble of safety. We saw speeds increase quite a bit over the pandemic so now people are just getting used to what normal driving is like,” Henry says. She says if you have bad habits and get into an accident, then you may never get to your destination and see the people you want to see. Speeding is a good example of that.

“Studies have shown that honestly, even just a few miles an hour over (the speed limit) only gets you there maybe a couple of seconds up to a minute or two faster. But then the risk is infinitely more than that. And yeah, if you don’t make it to your destination it there’s no point really in speeding,” Henry says. The “What Drives You?” campaign is currently running on social media, TV and radio.

Ottumwa City Council Approves Fiber Network Project with MCG

By Sam Parsons

The Ottumwa City Council met last night and approved an agreement between the city and MCG for the installation of a Fiber Optic Network in both residential and commercial areas of the city. Under the agreement, MCG would begin work on fiber optic network installation across the city in the spring of this year and it’s estimated that it will take about 3 years to build out the entire city. The agreement was approved unanimously.

The council also held a public hearing on their Maximum Property Tax Dollars for the upcoming fiscal year. The city had previously approved their maximum levy in February, but due to changes in state legislation, city administrator Philip Rath said that the city’s assessed valuation dropped by $17 million, so adjustments had to be made; the rate had previously been set at $17.11 per $1,000; it would increase by about 23 cents with the adjustment. 

And the council heard from the Ottumwa Historic Preservation Commission for their certified local government annual report. Commission chair Dennis Wilhoit said that much of last year was focused on finding financial support to draft a new historic preservation plan for the city, as the previous plan had been drafted in the 1990s. He said that process remains ongoing but that after gathering more community feedback, the commission hopes to present the completed plan to the city.

The next regular council meeting for the city of Ottumwa is scheduled for April 4.

Oskaloosa, Ottumwa Among Nearly 2 Dozen School Districts to Receive Swatting Calls

DES MOINES — Yesterday, about two dozen school districts across Iowa – including the Oskaloosa and Ottumwa school districts – received “swatting calls” that referend an alleged active shooter scenario. According to Department of Public Safety officials, the first swatting call originated in Clinton County at approximately 8:00 a.m., and the last call was received at 10:30 a.m. in Creston. Officials estimate that approximately 30 calls were received by local law enforcement agencies.

A “swatting call” refers to a false claim intended to trigger an immediate and widespread law enforcement deployment or emergency service response to a specific location. Hoax reports such as the ones experienced yesterday commonly consist of claims of serious violent attacks, such as a bomb threat, active shooter, and/or a hostage situation.

Iowa Department of Public Safety Commissioner Stephan K. Bayens said these false reports are a tactic intended to illicit a large-scale law enforcement response. “The design of it is to create confusion and chaos. It’s designed to draw a large law enforcement presence to a school even though there is no active threat. And by all accounts and for all intents and purposes, it appears thus far that is what Iowa experienced today.”

Bayens said yesterday’s swatting calls impacted the following communities:

•    Cedar Rapids
•    North Liberty
•    Iowa City (multiple schools)
•    Clinton
•    Davenport
•    Muscatine
•    Cerro Gordo County
•    Story County
•    Lee County (multiple schools)
•    Waterloo
•    Boone
•    Mason City
•    Charles City
•    Clear Lake
•    Creston
•    Des Moines
•    Oskaloosa
•    Marshalltown
•    Monona
•    Nevada
•    North Liberty
•    Ottumwa
•    Decorah

Immediately after receiving these calls, local law enforcement and school officials reported all relevant information to the Department’s Division of Intelligence and Fusion Center, which then re-disseminated the information to local law enforcement agencies throughout the state. Bayens said this proactive information sharing allows schools and law enforcement to better determine their response protocols should one of their schools receive a similar call. “By reporting these calls to us, we can quickly inform our school and law enforcement partners, which in this case may have impacted the nature of their response and stemmed the flow of more calls to other communities,” Bayens said.

The Department is continuing to work with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate and identify the caller. Bayens said the initial information leads investigators to believe the calls are similar in nature and likely originated from a single source.

State school safety officials and Governor Kim Reynolds were able to quickly inform the public about the swatting calls as part of a scheduled press conference and launch of a new school safety app called Safe+Sound Iowa. The app was made available to all public school districts and accredited non-public schools yesterday. Parents, students, and community members can anonymously report any tips to law enforcement through dps.iowa.gov/SafeandSoundIowa, downloading the free Safe+Sound Iowa app, or by calling 800-224-6018.

Jury convicts 3 of murder in death of rapper XXXTentacion

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A Florida jury has convicted three men of first-degree murder in the 2018 killing of star rapper XXXTentacion, who was shot during a robbery that netted $50,000. The jury deliberated a little more than seven days before finding 28-year-old Michael Boatwright, 26-year-old Dedrick Williams and 24-year-old Trayvon Newsome guilty on Monday. The jury also convicted them of armed robbery. They will receive mandatory life sentences on April 6. Prosecutors tied them to the slaying through extensive surveillance video from a motorcycle shop and cellphone videos the men took of them flashing fistfuls of $100 bills hours after the killing.

Renewable Fuels study of blocked carbon pipeline impact on corn price

By O. Kay Henderson (Radio Iowa)

A study commissioned by the renewable fuels industry suggests corn prices in Iowa would drop significantly if carbon capture pipelines are not built in Iowa.

“It’s like asking a farmer, a corn farmer on the corn side of their equation to take an 85% pay cut,” Shaw said during an online news conference this morning.

New federal tax credits are available for proposed pipelines that would capture carbon from Midwest ethanol plants and ship the carbon to underground storage in North Dakota and Illinois. “We are now looking at Iowa being the only…state on the map where there is still an active effort to derail these projects,” Shaw said.

A bill in the Iowa House would establish new steps pipeline developers would have to clear. Most notable is a requirement that property owners along 90% of a pipeline’s route voluntarily let developers have access to their land. The study found the price for corn could plummet by as much as 80 cents per bushel if carbon capture pipelines are connected to ethanol plants elsewhere, but not in Iowa. The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association is asking its members to lobby House members to vote against the bill.

Tim Recker, a corn farmer from Arlington, spoke during today’s news conference. He called carbon pipelines the next step for the ethanol industry.

“If we don’t find favor in getting CO2 transported, I’m going to be shipping corn to my neighboring states or I’m going to be putting a lot more corn on the river system — an 80 year old lock and dam system, our rail sytem or trucking it a lot farther than I do today,” he said “and to me, that’s going backwards in our industry, not forward.”

Shaw cited part of the study which found just 6% of Iowa field corn currently leaves the state without having value added either by being used to make ethanol, fed to livestock or converted to industrial use. “If we don’t align ourselves to be profitable under the current policy and market conditions and we let the ethanol production migrate out to those areas that do, the study found…44% of our corn would leave this state without having any value added to it,” Shaw said.

Key Republican lawmakers who have proposed new regulations for the pipelines say they’re defending the rights of landowners who don’t want their land seized through the government’s eminent domain process. Other pipeline opponents question the safety of the pipelines and whether capturing carbon from ethanol plants is among the best ways to reduce greenhouse gases.

Ottumwa Trout Stocking to be Held on March 25, 2023

OTTUMWA, IA — The Iowa Department of Natural Resources will be stocking 2,000 rainbow trout in the pond at the east side of Wapello street by the orange and blue playground equipment on Saturday March 25th at 10:30 A.M.   All Iowa fishing regulations apply at the pond.   There is a bag limit of 5 trout per day; the possession limit is 10.  A trout fishing derby will be held from 11 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. Any one catching a tagged fish can redeem the fish for a prize. The grand prize will be awarded to the largest fish caught. All prizes have been donated by Ottumwa Wal-Mart.

The Ottumwa Park Department has partnered with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to improve fishing in the ponds in Ottumwa Park.   The Iowa DNR Fisheries Bureau has been involved in trout stocking in urban areas for over 30 years in an effort to introduce trout fishing to more anglers across the state.   More information about fishing in Iowa, including licensing and the urban trout-stocking program can be found online at www.iowadnr.gov.

Oskaloosa City Council Sets Public Hearing for Edmundson Park Playground Improvements

By Sam Parsons

The Oskaloosa City Council met last night and set the date for a public hearing on plans and specifications for the Edmundson Park Playground Improvements. The public hearing will be held on Monday, April 17.

The project is estimated to carry a price tag of just over $600,000 and the city says that if the project is awarded, work would commence immediately and should be substantially completed by June 16. The deadline for all work to be done on the project would be September 1.

The council also passed a resolution adopting a new position with the city of Oskaloosa, introducing the role of Parks and Recreation Director to the fold. Mayor Dave Krutzfeldt said that while the city has had park boards in the past to oversee parks and recreation matters, there has not been a parks and recreation director in Oskaloosa since at least the 1980s. The new position was approved.

And the council approved the site plan application for Musco Lighting’s proposed facility on 2nd Avenue West, which will be approximately 13,000 square feet and would replace their current 6,000 SF facility.

The next regular council meeting with the city of Oskaloosa will be held on April 3.

Sandler receives Mark Twain Prize, praise from comic pals

WASHINGTON (AP) — A host of comedic and entertainment royalty gathered Sunday night at Washington’s Kennedy Center as Adam Sandler received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. For his part, Sandler placed his hand on the award, a bronze bust of Mark Twain, and speculated that it “one day might be the weapon used to bludgeon me in my sleep.” Sandler thanked his parents and siblings for what he called “that weird irrational confidence thing that I guess I still have” Now 56, he first came to national attention on TV’s “Saturday Night Live.” One of Sandler’s “SNL” colleagues, Dana Carvey, remarked before the ceremony, “Who has lasted this long and stayed this beloved?”

Key lawmaker optimistic House will debate pipeline bill this month

By O. Kay Henderson (Radio Iowa)

A lead sponsor of a bill that would set new regulations for proposed carbon pipelines projects says there may be changes in the bill when it’s debated in the House.

The main part of the bill would require that developers get voluntary access to 90 percent of the miles along the pipeline route before state officials could grant them eminent domain authority to seize the rest. “It’s a big issue for my landowners who do not believe that the blunt force of government should be allowed to be used to take their land for what is a private economic project,” Representative Steven Holt, a Republican from Denison, said, “because that’s what we’re talking about here.”

Holt indicated he’s confident the House will vote on the bill before month’s end. “If private property is going to mean anything in the United States of America, eminent domain cannot be based on seizing property for economic development,” Holt said during a weekend appearance on Iowa Press on Iowa PBS.

Bills in the Senate that outlined new rules for carbon pipelines never made it past an earlier deadline. Representative Lindsay James, a Democrat from Dubuque, said the concern is the bill will die in the senate. “In the House, we are rightfully starting a conversation and hopefully we will continue that conversation and hopefully the governor will take that seriously,” said James, who was also a guest on the Iowa Press program this weekend.

Last month, Governor Reynolds said she’s watching to see what happens with the House bill. While saying there could be areas where pipeline regulations could be tweaked, Reynolds told reporters she’d be having conversations with lawmakers about how new regulations could impact the ethanol industry. The pipelines are touted as a way to make ethanol carbon free and therefore expand markets the corn-based fuel.

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