Iowa City quarantines students, staff amid increase in cases

JOHNSTON, Iowa — The Iowa City school district said Wednesday that 127 students and five staff members tested positive for the coronavirus or are presumed positive, prompting the district to close 11 classrooms and quarantine more than 660 students and 16 staff members due to exposure.

The district was dealing with the infections as Gov. Kim Reynolds maintained Wednesday at a news conference that the virus is not transmitted in schools. Reynolds noted she wasn’t familiar with the Iowa City situation.

Speaking generally about infections at schools, Reynolds said, “Most of the teachers and the kids were being exposed outside of the classroom. We weren’t seeing the transmission inside the classroom.”

A school district spokeswoman said over the past few weeks contact tracing for confirmed virus cases in school buildings has revealed an increase in the number of students identified as close contacts to confirmed cases.

“This increase is, in part, due to the influx of students in our buildings since returning to 100% on-site learning and the inability to no longer maintain proper social distancing measures,” said Kristin Pedersen.

She said the contact tracing and quarantine protocols are based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Reynolds has been a strong advocate of classroom learning and has promoted state policies that pushed schools back into classrooms even as some local administrators and school boards resisted.

Federal public health officials voiced increased concern about new coronavirus variants infecting youth as outbreak clusters have been reported among participants in youth sports and in day care centers.

UW students who get vaccinated won’t be tested for virus

MADISON, Wis. — University of Wisconsin students who get vaccinated for COVID-19 will no longer have to be tested weekly for the virus under a policy change that interim President Tommy Thompson on Wednesday called an incentive to bolster vaccination rates on campus.

“It’s a way for us to reward students who want to get vaccinated without telling, mandating they have to. ... I don’t think mandates help,” Thompson said at a news conference announcing the change.

The change is designed to maximize the number who get inoculated before they leave campuses and return home this summer, Thompson said. The push to get as many faculty, staff and students vaccinated as possible comes as Thompson has already pledged to hold at least 75% of classes in person in the fall.

Thompson said he hoped to have 75% to 80% of people on campus vaccinated by the fall to reach herd immunity levels.

Most students became eligible for the vaccine this week when everyone in the state did. They could have gotten it earlier if they had a job or health condition that made them eligible. The university does not know how many have been vaccinated to date, but Thompson said he expects it’s a low number.

Statewide, more than 34% of Wisconsin residents have received at least one dose of vaccine, according to the state Department of health Services. However, only about 20% of people age 18-24 have gotten one shot and less than 9% are fully vaccinated. By contrast, 77% of the high priority group of people over age 65 have gotten at least one dose and 65% are fully vaccinated.

Thompson said he has asked for more doses of vaccine to be delivered to UW campuses. Last week, UW-Madison pointed to a shortage in doses available in encouraging staff, faculty and students to search for vaccine off campus. Nearly 12,000 UW-Madison employees and students have received at least one dose of the vaccine, the university said last week.

Meanwhile, the number of new confirmed cases of COVID-19 continues to go up. The percentage of positive tests over the past seven days, 3.7%, was at its highest point in two months after a steady decline that began in early January. At the height of the pandemic in mid-November, more than 17% of tests were positive.

Family of veteran settles wrongful death lawsuit

MADISON, Wis. — The federal government has agreed to pay $1 million to the children of an Army veteran who froze to death after he was discharged from a Veterans Affairs hospital in Wisconsin.

The family of Vance Perry filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the federal government in December. Perry’s five children said the hospital in Madison was aware of their father’s mental condition, which put him at risk of wandering away, and that staff knew he could not return to his residence on his own.

The family’s attorney, Terrence Polich, said someone at Memorial Veterans Hospital failed to make sure Perry got in a cab that had been called for him.

The 57-year-old father was found dead on New Year’s Eve 2018 in a downtown parking garage a day after he left the hospital. The temperature had dipped to 6 below zero Fahrenheit the night before, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

The settlement agreement does not include an admission of guilt or liability by the federal government, Polich said.

“I’m pleased with how seriously the government took this case,” Polich said. “Both the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the VA.”

Perry had served in the U.S. Army from 1978 to 1984, when he was honorably discharged, according to the lawsuit.

2 people killed, 2 others wounded in Milwaukee shooting

MILWAUKEE — Police say they have arrested a 26-year-old man in connection with a quadruple shooting Milwaukee’s north side early Wednesday that left two people dead and two people injured.

A 20-year-old woman and a 30-year-old man, both from Milwaukee, died at the scene of the shooting outside a Citgo gas station about 12:30 a.m., officials said.

A 26-year-old Illinois man and a 27-year-old Milwaukee woman were wounded and taken to a hospital. There’s no word yet on their condition.

Authorities said the shooting was the result of an argument, but did not elaborate on the arrest. Police said they are searching for other suspects.

Employees at the gas station tell WTMJ-TV the argument began inside the business and spilled outside before the gunfire erupted.

Toddler shot when gunfire hits home

URBANA, Ill. — A 2-year-old central Illinois boy was shot when his home was hit by gunfire, authorities said.

The house in Urbana was hit several times around 8:15 p.m. Tuesday, the Champaign County Sheriff’s Department said.

A man and a woman and two children were inside when the gunfire penetrated the house from outside, investigators told The (Champaign) News-Gazette.

The Associated Press

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