Gazette Daily News Podcast, Dec. 1, 2020

A container of hand sanitizer is seen as a part of a kit given out to school nurses at the College Community school dist
A container of hand sanitizer is seen as a part of a kit given out to school nurses at the College Community school district office in Cedar Rapids on Monday, Aug. 24, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

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Here’s your daily update for Dec. 1, 2020:

Nearly four weeks after the election, Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks was declared the official winner Monday of Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District race by just six votes. It’s the closest congressional race in the country and it flips a seat that’s been held by Democrats for 14 years.

The state canvassing board Monday certified results for the race following recounts in all 24 counties in the southeastern Iowa district.

Miller-Meeks, a state senator from Ottumwa, edged out Democrat and former state Sen. Rita Hart of Wheatland, with 196,964 votes to Hart’s 196,958.

The Hart campaign has not said if it will mount a legal challenge.

The Associated Press is expected to wait until after all legal appeals are exhausted before declaring a winner in the race.

Monday’s canvassing results also determined that more than 1.7 million Iowans cast ballots — a majority by absentee or early voting — to mark the highest turnout in Iowa’s electoral history. Nearly 76 percent of the eligible adults voted, one of the highest participation rates in the nation, according to Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate.

Voter turnout was 1,700,130, compared to the previous high of 1,589,951 set in 2012. More than 1 million Iowans cast absentee ballots, another state record that accounted for 58.9 percent of all ballots.

Monday’s results also officially declared President Donald Trump Iowa’s winner in the presidential race, giving him Iowa’s six electoral votes when the Electoral College meets Dec. 14. Unofficially, Joe Biden has garnered more electoral votes nationwide to claim the office effective Jan. 20.

November was the deadliest month for COVID-19 in Iowa, with 688 Iowans killed by the virus, according to data analyzed by The Gazette. October was the second-deadliest month with 372 deaths.

The state reported 28 new deaths on Monday, for a total of 2,403 Iowans dead because of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

November also brought the highest number of cases in a month, adding 101,574 COVID-19 cases, almost doubling the state’s total and bringing it to 229,019.

The month with the second-highest number of cases was again October with 38,883. 

Iowa reported 1,222 new cases on Monday. Three of the last four days have seen fewer than 5,000 test results, likely because of the long holiday weekend. 

Unionized state workers on the “front line” of the COVID-19 pandemic at state prisons, colleges and other institutions are seeking a 3 percent annual pay raise in light of the sacrifices they’ve made, a top public union leader said Monday at the start of new contract talks.

Danny Homan, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 61, sat down with state negotiators Monday on a Zoom call to open contract talks aimed at reaching a new labor agreement beginning July 1. He requested the across-the-board wage increase for each of the next two fiscal years.

The union represents roughly 19,000 members that includes nurses, corrections officers, university employees and transportation workers, among other public employees. The current state contract provides base wage increases of 2.1 percent that runs through the end of the fiscal year in June.

The state’s collective bargaining team is expected to make its opening offer later this month before moving into closed-door talks aimed at reaching a pact by March 15 to avoid going to binding arbitration.

Monday’s talks began as the state budget has a surplus of about $300 million, with cash and emergency reserves full at 10 percent.

Today will be sunny with a high near 38, with temperatures falling to a low of 18 overnight, according to the National Weather Service. The rest of the week will be mostly clear with highs in the upper 30s and lower 40s. 

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