116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
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This is Stephen Schmidt from the Gazette digital news desk and I’m here with your update for Wednesday, July 28.
Wednesday is set to be the hottest day in an already hot week. According to the National Weather Service, it should be mostly sunny and hot, with a high near 96 degrees in the Cedar Rapids area. Heat index values could reach as high as 105. Wednesday night it will stay mostly clear, with a low around 76 degrees.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed course Tuesday on masking guidelines, recommending that even vaccinated people return to wearing them indoors in parts of the country — including some counties in Iowa — where the Delta variant of the coronavirus is fueling surges.
Citing new information about the variant's ability to spread among vaccinated people, the CDC also recommended indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students and visitors at K-12 schools nationwide, regardless of vaccination status and regardless of the rate of community spread.
Republican Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds rejected the guidance soon after it was issued, criticizing the Democratic Biden administration for confusing and unnecessary messages.
"The Biden Administration's new COVID-19 guidance telling fully vaccinated Iowans to now wear masks is not only counterproductive to our vaccination efforts, but also not grounded in reality or common sense," Reynolds said in a statement.
She did not explain how asking people to wear a mask discourages vaccinations. But she added she was concerned the federal guidance could result in mask mandates for schools. Reynolds signed a law in May that prohibits local officials from requiring masks be worn in schools or businesses.
Iowa ranks lower than the national average when it comes to the rate of vaccinations, with about 47 percent of the population, or 1.47 million Iowans, fully vaccinated. Like many states, vaccination interest here has stagnated.
After twice voting to support a controversial housing development proposed near Hickory Hill Park, the Iowa City Council reversed course Tuesday night and rejected a rezoning that would have allowed homes and a senior living center and added land to the park.
A reversal on the third consideration of the Hickory Trail Estates development came after council members heard and read an onslaught of opposition to the project, although it had been scaled back from its initial proposal.
Council members heard an hour of public comment from residents Tuesday evening, with all who spoke aside from the developer in opposition. The project was proposed by developer Joseph Clark, Nelson Development and Axiom Consultants. Residents have cited concerns that the development’s proximity to the park would disrupt the ecosystem and aesthetics of the park.
Hickory Trail Estates was to include 41 lots of single-family housing and a senior living facility, and add 14 acres to the nearby Hickory Hill Park.
A mine resistant ambush protected vehicle, shared by Johnson County law enforcement agencies, will remain an option for the Iowa City Police Department, for the moment, as the Iowa City Council considers alternatives to the armored transport vehicle.
The vehicle, known as an MRAP, was purchased by the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office in 2014.
Residents have decried the use of the vehicle, saying its use is unnecessary and a needless militarization of the police. Local law enforcement has pushed back, saying that they need an armored vehicle option to help protect officers in dangerous situations.
The Johnson County Board of Supervisors has also directed Johnson County Sheriff Brad Kunkel to consider an alternative option to the MRAP.
The council asked city staff to communicate with the county government on their plans for exploring an alternative option, and will revisit the topic at its next work session on Aug. 17.
With the Iowa football season rapidly approaching, there will be more Hawkeye news to come soon. If you want to have the latest football insights emailed directly to you, sign up for Leah Vann's exclusive weekly Talkin' Hawks newsletter at thegazette.com/hawks