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National
Trump contradicts health experts

WASHINGTON — Openly contradicting the government's top health experts, President Donald Trump predicted on Wednesday that a safe and effective vaccine against the coronavirus could be ready as early as next month and in mass distribution soon after, undermining the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and calling him "confused" in projecting a longer time frame.

Trump also disagreed with Dr. Robert Redfield about the effectiveness of protective masks — which the president recommends but almost never wears — and said he'd telephoned Redfield to tell him so.

Earlier in the day, the CDC sent all 50 states a "playbook" for distribution of a vaccine to all Americans free of cost when one is proven safe and effective — which is not yet the case. Redfield told a congressional hearing that health care workers, first responders and others at high risk would get the vaccine first, perhaps in January or even late this year, but it was unlikely to be available more broadly, again assuming approval, before late spring or summer.

Redfield, masked at times in a Senate hearing room, spoke emphatically of the importance of everyone wearing protective masks to stop the pandemic, which has killed almost 200,000 Americans.

"I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine."

Trump, who has strongly recommended all year that restaurants, stores and cities in general "reopen," mentioned on Tuesday that waiters struggle with their face coverings and do not like them.

CDC sent a planning document on Wednesday to U.S. states, territories and some big cities. Adding to logistical complications, vaccines likely will have to be given in two doses spaced weeks apart and will have to be refrigerated.

Redfield said states are not ready to deal with the demand for such a distribution and some $6 billion in new funding would be needed to get the nation prepared.

Earlier Wednesday, Trump parachuted into the coronavirus aid debate, upbraiding his Republican allies for proposing too small of a relief package and encouraging both parties to go for a bigger one that would include his priority of $1,200 stimulus checks for most Americans.

But his top GOP allies — who worked for weeks with the White House to construct the very aid package Trump criticized — shrugged off the president’s mid-morning tweet.

All the key players in the entrenched impasse over a COVID-19 rescue package instead focused their energies on finger-pointing and gamesmanship, even as political nervousness was on the rise among Democrats frustrated by a stalemate in which their party shares the blame. There remained no sign that talks between the White House and congressional Democrats would restart.

The smaller bill from Senate Republicans that Trump criticized did not include $300 billion for a second round of Trump-endorsed stimulus checks, which the White House said is a top priority.

Meanwhile, a drug company said Wednesday that partial results from a study testing an antibody drug give hints that it may help keep mild to moderately ill COVID-19 patients from needing to be hospitalized. Eli Lilly's results have not yet been published or reviewed by independent scientists.

The drug missed the study’s main goal of reducing the amount of virus patients had after 11 days, except at the middle of three doses being tested. However, most study participants, even those given a placebo treatment, cleared the virus by then, so that time point now seems too late to judge that potential benefit, the company said.

Other tests suggest the drug was reducing virus sooner, and the results are an encouraging “proof of principle” as this and other studies continue, Lilly said.

The entire vaccine enterprise faces continued public skepticism. Only about half of Americans said they'd get vaccinated in an Associated Press-NORC poll taken in May.  Since then, questions have only mounted about whether the government is trying to rush treatments and vaccines to help Trump's reelection chances.

Redfield said that the "scientific integrity" of his agency's reports "has not been compromised and it will not be compromised under my watch." He also rejected questions about whether the CDC's timeline for states to be ready for a vaccine by Nov. 1 was politically motivated.

"The worst thing that could happen is if we have a vaccine delivered and we're still not ready to distribute," Redfield told Senate lawmakers. "There was absolutely no political thinking about it."

Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the committee's top Democrat, said political interference from HHS had damaged public trust in the government's health information.

"The Trump administration needs to leave the science to the scientists immediately," Murray said.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said while campaigning that he trusts what scientists say about a potential vaccine — but not Trump.

Biden has said he would take a vaccine "tomorrow" if it were available but he would want to "see what the scientists said" first.


State-and-regional
featured
School sidelines adjust to pandemic
Cheerleading across Siouxland during coronavirus can mean masks, less bumping

SIOUX CITY -- The chanted cheers have the same wording, but at times may be muffled by masks, and there is less linking of arms or bumping hips when cheerleaders exhort players and fans during high school football games.

The novel coronavirus impact on yet another aspect of schools and sports is being seen in Siouxland, at the one-month mark of the 2020 season that's been shortened in Iowa, amid changes like timeouts twice per quarter to cleanse footballs and other steps.

On the sidelines between players and fans, cheerleaders are still dong their thing in most games, although with some elements taken out of the repertoire. However, at South Sioux City High School, the 10 varsity and nine junior varsity cheerleaders haven't participated in games so far, due to coronavirus precautions, although that could change in a few weeks, district spokesman Lance Swanson said Tuesday.

"We have not allowed any cheerleading at games yet this year. We are hoping we can have cheerleading and a limited number of student fans at our homecoming game on October 2nd," Swanson said.

In the second game of the season on Sept. 4 at Spirit Lake (Iowa) High School, the seven Indian cheerleaders without masks, but with white bows in their hair and shaking black-and-red poms, stood on 2-foot-high boxes spaced at least 10 feet apart, usually facing the field to watch action.

During the periodic coronavirus cleaning two-minute timeouts on the field they would turn around and face the home crowd, cheering to fans in the stands, where less than 25 percent of people wore masks. The Spirit Lake cheerleaders did not do chants that involved stunts or touching each other in any way, and that's also how things are at Sioux City East High School.

"It is less fun, it is less entertaining, because the girls aren't doing cheers to their full extent," East cheer coach Makayla Burns said Wednesday.

Northwest Iowa continues to have several counties, including Sioux, Lyon and Plymouth, with high positivity testing rates.

Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal 

A North High School cheerleader puts on her face mask at the start of halftime during Sioux City North vs Bishop Heelan football action played Sept. 4 at Olsen Stadium in Sioux City. The cheerleader wore masks while not cheering during the game.

The pandemic not only impacts how classes are delivered this fall, but also sports, homecoming activities -- football games and royalty courts are still on tap in Sioux City and other districts, but pieces such as dances won't play out in some districts -- and cheerleading. There is much variance among schools for how cheering plays out.

Hannah Crichton, a sophomore at Sergeant Bluff-Luton High School, said the virus didn't cause her to consider not being a cheerleader. Crichton said her freshman year of cheerleading was much preferable, as this year, SB-L practices didn't begin until mid-August, which pushed readiness back.

"We were very prepared for the first game last year ... (Now) we are still learning cheers," Crichton said.

She said masks are worn by the seven cheerleaders when they walk into a stadium, then they can be taken off for the rest of the game. The SB-L girls stand in staggered fashion in two rows, about four feet apart, Crichton estimated, and they can physically interact with each other, such as doing the "bumpsy bump" cheer with hips.

Siouxland school buses still roll during coronavirus

School officials say it is not practical to only place about 15 students per bus, which would allow for social distancing measures. As a result, many districts that do not require masks inside school buildings are mandating them on buses.

Burns is overseeing East participants for a second year, which is much different than the first. There are 28 varsity and 18 junior varsity cheerleaders, who started practice in mid-July rather than the usual June, due to the virus presence.

Burns said none of the East cheerleaders have expressed any reluctance to cheer during the pandemic, even though how that plays out in games has been altered in a few key ways.

First, when doing chants, masks are not worn, although the girls must stay at least six feet apart from each other. When converting to cheers that are motion-based, the cheerleaders put masks on. Additionally, there is no physical contact by any of the East cheerleaders to each other, such as linking arms, Burns said.

"My girls know -- stay in your spot. They are pretty well adjusted to it," Burns said.

She said in spite of the cheerleading adaptations, the crowd still gets a good performance from a repertoire of 100 cheers, and the East student section in the stands still gets into the game. Burns said there is a downside for the girls, however, because they'd like to be more social and interactive with each other.

"I'm hoping next year is back to normal," Burns said.


Govt-and-politics
Trump decision to bolster ethanol becomes campaign flashpoint

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — President Donald Trump has been receiving praise from farm state Republicans for his decision to deny the “gap year” waivers and increase access to E15 corn-based ethanol. But it also was panned by Democrats Wednesday as nothing more than a political ploy.

“What the administration has done is really an insult,” said Michigan U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, ranking Democrat on the Agriculture Committee. “It would be welcome news if it was at the beginning of a Trump presidency. But already the damage has been done.

“So our farmers are hurting and they need more than just some lip service right before the election,” Stabenow said Wednesday on a call organized by Biden for President.

Bob Nichols 

Vilsack

Trump has failed to deliver on the promises he made to Midwestern farmers four years ago — better trade deals, investments in rural infrastructure and support for the renewable fuel industry, added former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack.

“The reality three and a half years later, as we approach the election, is that President Trump has failed to keep any of these promises,” said Vilsack, who served as President Barack Obama’s U.S. Department of Agriculture secretary for eight years and now leads the U.S. Dairy Export Council.

“Now at this late date he becomes a Johnny-come-lately to the third promise of supporting the RFS.”

Trump and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency denied waivers petroleum refiners had sought retroactively, some as far back as 2011, that would have allowed the petroleum industry to remove hundreds of millions of gallons of corn-based ethanol from the market and sidestep a congressional requirement of blending at least 15 billion gallons of ethanol a year into the nations fuel supply.

The president’s action is a big deal, according to Iowa’s two Republican U.S. senators who had lobbied the president to deny the waivers and remove outdated restrictions on the year-round sale of E15.

Justin Wan, Sioux City Journal 

Grassley

“I applaud President Trump for keeping his word and supporting our farmers and biofuel producers,” Sen. Chuck Grassley said. “This is an important step that will allow more gas stations to provide E15 to Iowans year-round without significantly changing their infrastructure.”

Sen. Joni Ernst said the Trump administration listened to the call for action from her, Grassley and other supporters of the RFS.

The president’s move will provide more certainty to biofuel producers “who have for too long been yanked around by the EPA,” Ernst said.

Ernst

Ernst on Wednesday received the “Fueling Growth” award for the sixth consecutive year from Growth Energy, a trade association, for her support of biofuels.

Her Democratic challenger, Theresa Greenfield, said the president’s decisions “does nothing to erase the damage Sen. Ernst did by voting for a fossil fuel lobbyist to run the EPA. Unlike Ernst, I’ll always put our farmers first, not Big Oil donors.”


OABCIG's Cooper DeJean runs into the end zone for a touchdown during the Class 2A State Championship game against Waukon on Friday, Nov. 22, at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls. DeJean is the Journal Football Player of the Year.


Iowa
top story
As bars reopen in 4 counties, Iowa governor says state now will seek out ‘bad actors’

DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds signaled Wednesday her administration will take a more-targeted enforcement approach in dealing with “bad-actor” businesses that violate COVID-19 restrictions rather than taking countywide, shotgun action to shut down bars, taverns and other establishments.

Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal 

Reynolds

“I’m trying to thread that needle,” Reynolds told reporters in defending her Aug. 27 decision to temporarily close bars or restrict the sale of alcohol in six counties where the number of COVID-19 cases had spiked.

“I’m trying to protect the health and safety of Iowans. I’m trying to protect the livelihoods of Iowans,” the governor noted.

She said the closures became necessary when stronger enforcement efforts weren’t achieving the hoped-for goal of slowing the COVID-19 spread.

On Tuesday, Reynolds issued a revised emergency order that keeps bars around the University of Iowa in Iowa City and Iowa State University in Ames closed until at least Sunday, but allowed those around Cedar Rapids, Cedar Falls and Des Moines to reopen at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

The governor’s new proclamation continuing the Public Health Disaster Emergency permitted bars, taverns, wineries, breweries, distilleries, nightclubs, country clubs or other social or fraternal clubs — including wedding reception venues — to reopen in Black Hawk, Dallas, Linn and Polk counties.

It also removed restrictions on hours that alcohol may be sold in restaurants in those four counties and clarified the social distancing requirements that still apply to all bars and restaurants in the state.

Consequences

Reynolds said she hopes the closures in the six counties got people’s attention regarding the seriousness of the pandemic and the need to follow safety guidelines.

“Now that we’ve seen the trends come down,” she said, “they know that we’re serious about enforcement and following the guidelines of the emergency health declaration.

Bars in 4 of 6 counties can reopen at 5 p.m. Wednesday

DES MOINES --  Gov. Kim Reynolds will allow bars, taverns, breweries and nightclubs in Black Hawk, Dallas, Linn and Polk counties to reopen Wednesday, but kept her closure order in place in Johnson and Story counties — two college communities that have seen spikes in positive coronavirus cases among young people.

“We’ll continue to monitor the counties. But in addition to that, we’ve streamlined the enforcement process,” she said.

Due process, she said, had been taking several weeks. It will now happen in a week’s time, she said.

“We can go in, we can continue to do education, we can give them a little warning, and if they don’t do what they’re supposed to do, then we will take the next step, which is to fine and to shut them done.

“My goal — since we can do that in a more timely manner — we need to punish the bad actors and not the ones that are doing it right,” she added. “I didn’t have the luxury of doing that with the spike in cases that we’ve seen.

“Since then, we’ve refined the process. We believe we can now do that moving forward.”

Reynolds said the enforcement approach is intended to strike a balance between compliance and consequences.

“We’ll work with the businesses so they know what the rules are, they know what the expectations are and then they can make a decision and, if they decide not to be a part of the solution, there are consequences,” the governor said.

Test Iowa looking to ‘winterize’ coronavirus testing sites

DES MOINES — With the onset of colder weather and flu season in Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds said Wednesday state officials are in the process of “winterizing” Test Iowa sites that help pandemic-weary Iowans confirm whether they have contracted the coronavirus.