Gazette Daily News Briefing, January 13

The Gazette Daily News Podcast

Jan 13 2022 • 4 mins

This is Stephen Schmidt from the Gazette digital news desk and I’m here with your update for Thursday, January 13. We get one more day of above freezing weather, Thursday, before snow arrives on Friday and it gets a bit colder over the weekend. According to the National Weather Service forecast there will be a chance of flurries before 7 a.m., and some areas of fog before 11 a.m., so keep an eye out during your commute. But, besides that, it will be mostly cloudy Thursday with a high of 37 degrees. A light wind will blow at between 5 to 10 mph. On Thursday night it will be mostly cloudy with a low around 24 degrees. In Iowa’s weekly update on COVID-19 numbers it is clear that Iowa is following along with national trends spurred on by the omicron variant with another near record breaking week. Linn and Johnson Counties both reported record or near record case numbers for the second week in a row, with both counties over 2,000 new cases in the new week. Both counties also reported surging positivity rates, with nearly 1 in every 3 tests coming back positive. The fast-spreading omicron variant has also driven up the demand for testing. Though test supplies still remain available for the moment, Iowa Department of Public Health spokeswoman Sarah Ekstrand said the current surge “could affect Test Iowa kit availability for brief periods of time.” COVID-19 patients in Iowa hospitals reached 923 as of Wednesday, another 100-plus patient increase since last week. Despite surging COVID infections and hospitalizations across the state, Iowa’s Board of Regents on Wednesday announced no changes to its campus guidance or operations for the upcoming spring semester, which begins next Tuesday. The board’s fall guidance mandated faculty and staff return to their pre-pandemic on-campus duties; required the universities offer the same level of in-person educational experiences as before; and barred the institutions from mandating masks, social distancing or vaccinations. Iowa’s Board of Regents also discussed some interesting building plans for the University of Iowa campus disclosed at this same meeting. In discussing plans over the next decade for their campus, University of Iowa officials revealed Wednesday they intend to buy the Old Capitol Town Center, a downtown Iowa City mall opened in 1981 just south of the Pentacrest that already houses many campus programs. The UI also revealed its 10-year plans include selling its 109-year-old downtown Jefferson Building, modernizing its student memorial union, replacing the union’s parking ramp and upgrading its athletics facilities. Athletics upgrades include an already-announced $20 million stand-alone Hawkeye wrestling facility, a $9 million women’s gymnastics and spirit squad training center and improvements to its baseball facilities. A Cedar Rapids man faces multiple charges after a home invasion in Coggon on Sunday that injured the two elderly homeowners. Brandon W. Lee, 33, was arrested by the Linn County Sheriff's Office Special Response Team at 1:15 p.m. Wednesday at 2429 Reynolds Ave. SW. Lee, now in the Linn County Jail, is charged with two counts of first-degree robbery, two counts of willful injury causing bodily injury, first-degree theft and impersonating a public official.  Deputies were called to a home in the 1800 block of Maple Way in Coggon about 6:30 p.m. Sunday where two 72-year-old homeowners had been assaulted. The homeowners said someone knocked on their front door claiming to be a law enforcement officer, demanded entry while brandishing a gun and forced his way in. Once inside, the man demanded money and assaulted them. They were both taken to a hospital to be treated for their injuries and one of them remains hospitalized. First-degree robbery is a Class B felony, punishable by up to 25 years in prison. Support for this podcast provided by New Pioneer Food Co-op. Celebrating 50 years as Eastern Iowa’s source for locally and responsibly sourced...