Gazette Daily News Podcast, May 22

Blaik Swailes of Marion and Drake Hess of Marion climb a tree April 23 at Palisades-Kepler State Park near Mount Vernon.
Blaik Swailes of Marion and Drake Hess of Marion climb a tree April 23 at Palisades-Kepler State Park near Mount Vernon. Facilities are opening and more camping is allowed starting Friday at Iowa state parks, but many Memorial Day events and summer have been canceled in response to the coronavirus pandemic. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

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There was finally some sunlight that poked its way through the clouds Thursday night. I hope you enjoyed it, because it’s back to cloudy again Friday. According to the National Weather Service, it will be another cloud day in the Cedar Rapids area, this time featuring a very pleasant high of 74 degrees. Despite the day of clouds, rain should hold off until the early morning hours Saturday. There will be a low of 61 degrees Friday night.

As the state’s count of COVID-19 deaths reached its highest daily peak yet of 20, Gov. Kim Reynolds said Thursday there is no reason to reconsider her orders allowing more businesses to open. Starting Friday, restrictions are relaxed for movie theaters, campgrounds, and museums, among other establishments, and next week they will be relaxed for bars.

Testing across the state for the virus has ramped up so much, she said, that now any Iowan who wants to get tested will be able to make an appointment for one. She said this will allow the state to manage future occurrences of the disease.

The death total for the state from the virus is now at 403 in a little over two months.

In another opening announcement, school districts can offer voluntary, in-person summer school starting June 1, Iowa Department of Education Director Ann Lebo said Thursday, as well as in-person enrichment camps.

The announcement allows public and private schools to open for academic enrichment programs and activity-based camps for STEM, drama, robotics and other subjects, and comes a day after Gov. Kim Reynolds said high school summer sports teams could start practices as early as June 1.

Nationally, the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits in the two months since the coronavirus took hold in the U.S. has swelled to nearly 39 million, the government reported Thursday, even as states gradually reopen their economies and let people go back to work. According to the Labor Department, more than 2.4 million people filed for unemployment last week in the latest wave of layoffs that came as a result of local governments halting business to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

A person died in a farm accident Thursday afternoon after a tractor attachment collapsed and killed the driver of the tractor. The accident, reported at 5:10 p.m., happened at 1404 Walford Rd., immediately southeast of The Eastern Iowa Airport, according to the Linn County Sheriff’s Office. The identity of the driver was not released, pending notification of family members.

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