The state health department has raised the number of cases of West Nile virus recorded in Iowa. Nineteen human cases of the mosquito-borne illness have been added to this year’s tally, in a dozen counties. It brings the total number of cases of the illness to 98 this year. State investigators have confirmed the germ in animals, humans or insects in 87 counties this summer and three people have died of the disease, which is the newest of several forms of mosquito-borne encephalitis. The virus is carried by one species of mosquito, and isn’t transmitted in any other way. So once a freeze kills the summer bugs, there will be no more risk of West Nile for this year. State epidemiologist Patricia Quinlisk says while a hard frost is possible this week, it may not come in all parts of the state and she urges folks to keep using Deet-based repellents and covering up to ward off mosquito bites.
Archives for September 2003
The worst unemployment rate in the state is in Tama County. Judy Erickson with Iowa Workforce Development says the jobless rate skyrocketed with the closing of the Meskwaki Casino. The August rate was 14-point-6 percent in Tama County, highest in the state, and has been high since June following the casino’s closing. The meatpacking plant in Tama reopened, but that only means a couple of hundred jobs and Erickson says it hasn’t had much impact yet on the unemployment numbers. Erickson says until the casino closed, Tama County’s numbers were comparable with counties around the state. A year ago in August, the jobless rate in Tama County was three-point-7 percent, earlier this year it was around five-percent, showing a typical seasonal trend of winter joblessness, but in May it was around 3-point-3 and she says it “would probably settle down” to that same figure. That would depend on the casino reopening, returning 13-hundred people to jobs they lost when the doors closed last spring.
Would you give up some of the benefits your employer gives you if it meant you’d be paid more money? Nurses at the University of Iowa Hospitals in Iowa City are going to get a chance to answer that question in a first-of-its-kind program. U-of-I spokesman Tom Moore says they could earn five dollars more an hour by giving up some benefits. He says that includes things like health insurance, dental and life insurance and sick leave. Moore says the idea for the “more pay/less bennies” option came from employees. He says the employees were the driving force for the change as they asked for it. He says the nurses say they’d be more likely to stay with the change. Moore says there are a variety of reasons that would make the new plan attractive. He says they may be younger and the benefits don’t have as much meaning to them at this stage of their career, or they could be covered by their spouses’s benefits and don’t need the U-of-I’s plan. Moore says the university can benefit from the plan too. He says they look for a benefit in the long term by not having to hire as many temporary staff and saving money. From the pay versus benefits aspect, he says it’s about a wash in what it would cost. Moore says there are just over 13-hundred employees who could try the new option. They can choose on a case-by-case basis, and will get a chance to change their mind each year.
A conference today (Monday) at Drake University put on by the Polk County “Families and Fathers Coalition” will bring social-service agencies and businesses together to learn how to strengthen bonds between fathers and kids. Spokesman Dan Raedeker works with Head Start to help involve fathers and kids together. He says responsible fatherhood is key in the education of children and the conference will provide an opportunity for fathers to understand their role in children’s lives. Raedeker says it’s not that the men are missing.He says there are many fathers, they just have to make sure they’re the role models for their own kids and those in their community. Raedeker says sometimes men get caught up in being a breadwinner and don’t think they have a role in the home. He says business has a role in helping workers participate in the lives of their families. He says it’s important for businesses to permit the “flex-time” that will let fathers and mothers take part in their children’s activities. Raedeker says the conference is for everybody. He says it’s for fathers and mothers, and all people in the community, as he says folks from the faith community and others can help educate fathers and help them understand how important they are. Raedeker says reconnecting with their children is as easy as fathers learning what goes on in their schools and about the events happening in their lives. The conference will be staged at Drake’s Olmsted Center. It began at eight this morning and ends at four this afternoon.
A man who triggered an Amber Alert in Colorado ended up in Iowa were he was arrested. The state of Colorado put out the alert, after a woman in the town of Lafayette told authorities her boyfriend had come to her house and assaulted her, then took off with their 14-month-old son. The man was identified as Jacub Dentler and police back in Colorado say they’re certain he heard the Amber Alert had been issued naming him. Dentler had headed for Iowa, where he has relatives, and upon arriving in Des Moines, he dropped the child off safely at an uncle’s home, then said he’d turn himself in once he’d visited some acquaintances. Polk County authorities have now taken him into custody and it remains to be seen whether Dentler will be charged in Iowa or sent back to Colorado to face kidnapping or other charges.
The state of Iowa is sending some help to the east coast for the states hit by Hurricane Isabel. Kara Berg of the Iowa Emergency Management Division says the division’s public assistance officer, is heading to Delaware.She says he has vast experience in administration of public assistance programs that’re designed to help states in their disaster recovery efforts. Berg says Pat Hall’s trip to Delaware is part of an agreement in which the states swap help during disasters. Berg says another staff member from Iowa will head to Maryland to help them with their recovery efforts, and there could be more.She says other state agencies may be sending some people out to help with the administration of the recovery effort. Berg says the administrative help is all Iowa will send, as there’s not a need for any equipment at this point.She says they’re getting a lot of that help from surrounding states, and need the administrative help because the many hours it takes. Berg says many Iowans have called asking how they can help. She says they want to be very specific about the help sent to the states. She says they don’t want to send a lot of things to the states and create another disaster by having tons of supplies a state would have to deal with. Berg says if you are interested in helping, you should contact the disaster services departments of the individual states and see what type of aid is needed. You can call the following numbers to get information on each state. North Carolina, 1-888-835-9966; Virginia, 1-877-245-5513; District of Columbia, 202-727-1000
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, a Massachusetts Senator, got a boost this weekend from another Massachusetts Democrat, Senator Edward Kennedy, as the two campaigned in Iowa. The two men, though, clearly had their eyes on the new entrant in the race, retired General Wesley Clark who has surged in polls after announcing his candidacy earlier this month. During a speech in Des Moines, Senator Kennedy sought to bolster John Kerry’s foreign policy and security credentials. Kennedy said Kerry was a decorated military hero of the Vietnam era who “knows more about national security and foreign policy than any other candidate.” For his part, Kerry sought to distinguish himself from Clark by pointing out that while Clark had voted for President Richard Nixon, he had opposed Nixon on Vietnam. Kerry said he’s proud that at the “ripe age of 27,” he had landed on “Nixon’s enemies list.” Kerry said “the last thing we need in America is a second Republican party.” Kennedy ran for president in 1980, challenging then-President Jimmy Carter. Kennedy won over 31 percent of the Democrat delegates selected on Iowa Caucus Night in 1980, but President Carter garnered over 50 percent. Kennedy says Iowans can redeem themselves this time around by supporting the candidate he’s chosen, Kerry.Kennedy said “all will be forgiven” if Iowans “make up” by helping elect Kerry. Ted Kennedy’s son, Patrick, campaigned this weekend for his choice in the Democratic presidential race, Missouri Congressman Richard Gephardt. Kerry & Kennedy campaigned in Des Moines, Waterloo and Iowa City on Saturday. Patrick Kennedy made stops Sunday in Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Waverly, Independence and Dubuque.
Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean has unveiled a long-term care strategy that includes tax credits for those who purchase long term care insurance and new regulation of the industry. Dean says long term care insurance is terrific, and he wants to make it easier for Americans to buy it. But Dean says there’s no minimum standard for such insurance, so if a company goes broke, you have little recourse, and no insurance. Dean says while he was Governor of Vermont, he also sought to make it easier for the elderly to stay in their homes as long as possible.Dean is also calling for a new, nationwide registry for nursing home workers to screen out those who’ve abused the elderly. Dean says every state has such a registry to record those guilty of elder abuse, but there’s no national registry to guard against those who would move from state to state and seek employment in the nursing home industry. Dean was at the Dubuque Area Lifetime Center on Sunday to outline his long term care ideas. He also campaigned this weekend in Baldwin, Clinton, Iowa City and Davenport.
A national “Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride” made stops Sunday in Des Moines and Davenport. A service on the steps of the capitol memorialized the 11 immigrants found dead recently in a rail car in Denison. Father Kevin Cameron says the 11 were victims, and the ride is about trying to make life better for immigrants. (Cameron is the priest at St. Peters and Visitation Catholic Churches in Des Moines.) Peru native Max Cardenas is the Iowa Project director for the Center for New Community, a statewide initiative to promote the idea of welcoming immigrants. He calls the deaths in Denison an “Iowa tragedy.” Cardenas says the reason it happened is because there is no legal channel for lower-skilled workers to come to Iowa and work, which he says is all they want to do. Cardenas says yesterday’s event hopefully sent a message.Labor union activists were among immigrants and members of faith groups at the rally. Erwin Lopez of Oskaloosa, a member of the Plumbers and Steamfitters Union, was there to support “the struggles of immigrants.”
An overabundance of deer in Iowa is a problem for some — but a business bonanza for others. Small-town Iowa meat lockers saw their customers pulled away by the advent of the large chain grocery stores and retail superstores. But a resurgence in the deer population in Iowa has opened up a new niche market for the lockers. Jess Klatt works with his family at the Granger Country Market He says it’s a big part of their business, as it keeps them going through five months of the year that would normally be slow. Klatt says business is so good during the deer season, customers have to wait to get a taste of their venison. He says it could take you three to four months to get the processed product back. He says it only takes a half hour or so to process the animal — but they’ve been custom processing over three-thousand deer each year. Klatt says it’s been a great story for local lockers all over the state. He’s even ready to get into deer hunting himself. He says he’s starting to get into bow hunting. Klatt says custom jobs and personalized service are a few of the things local lockers have used to stay in business in the wake of the mass-produced products sold at the chain stores.