Gazette Daily News Podcast, November 25

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Wednesday’s weather will be a continuation of Tuesday’s rainy atmosphere. According to the National Weather Service there will be a high near 43 degrees in the Cedar Rapids area. There will be a chance for dense fog before 8 a.m., but that will clear into a mostly cloudy, periodically drizzly day. Wednesday night will remain cloudy, with a low of 35 degrees.

The true picture of COVID-19 in Iowa remains unclear so far this week. On the one hand, there have been improvements, with the positivity rate remaining (barely) below 40 percent Tuesday, after remaining above 40 percent for over two weeks in a row before. The 3,872 new cases on Tuesday, in any other month this year, might have been alarming, but compared to the beginning of November-- where cases were averaging well more than 4,000 a day-- and 3,900 cases became an improvement. Hospitalizations have also stabilized in the 1,350 patient range after topping 1,500 in this most recent spike.

While it remains to be seen whether this wave will continue to plateau in Iowa, what is clear is more damage lies in its wake. 47 people were reported as dying from COVID-19 Tuesday, the highest death toll so far from the disease, bringing the total number of deaths in the state from the novel coronavirus to 2,271. Tuesday also had the highest number of people on respirators so far, at 155.

Iowans received varying depictions of the state of the virus and its consequences Tuesday: Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, who ordered a mask mandate last week, declared that with a vaccine on the horizon, and some improvements to the numbers, the state is on the right track with the virus as long as vigilance is maintained; at the same time, Iowa hospital administrators and workers signed a letter asking that lawmakers recognize the extreme stress that is currently being placed on the state’s health providers. And in a sign that life will not return back to normal in December, the Linn-Mar and Cedar Rapids School Districts on Tuesday announced they would be remaining in virtual learning for two weeks after the holiday break to try to dampen the potential blow of the virus spreading from Thanksgiving travel.

Other things remain unclear, like the final result of the election in Iowa’s second U.S. Congressional District. As the campaigns of Republican Marianette Miller-Meeks and Democrat Rita Hart duke it out over rules, and counties slowly recount and certify votes for a race that has seesawed back and forth between the two candidates since election night, Miller-Meeks ended the day Tuesday with a 41 vote lead out of nearly 400,000 votes cast. And with more recounting to do and several votes in dispute, everything besides the fact that this will be one of the closest races in American history remains undecided.

More decided, but still unexplained to the public, is the fate of Marion Library Director Hollie Trenary. The Marion Library Board met in private last week and voted 6 to 3 to terminate Trenary’s contract. No explanation has been forthcoming from the city or the board about why this happened, as they have cited privacy concerns around personnel changes. Trenary, for her part, told the Gazette that she is “sad and heartbroken” by the decision but did not comment further. 

The library has now seen three directors in the past five years, with this change coming two months after the city broke ground on a new public library.