Week in review: Notable local stories from the past 7 days

Dubuque County Board of Supervisors interim Executive Director Ed Raber talks with U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa, during a roundtable discussion in Dyersville, Iowa, on Monday. PHOTO CREDIT: Dave Kettering

Dubuque County records 35 new COVID-19 cases

Dubuque County saw a record-breaking increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases on Tuesday as officials announced that 24 Dubuque County Jail inmates tested positive for the virus.

An additional 35 cases were reported in the county from 5 p.m. Monday to 5 p.m. Tuesday, bringing the total to 454.

Local officials connected part of that increase to the outbreak in the Dubuque County Jail. Samples were taken from all inmates and staff last Friday night after one inmate tested positive, according to a press release from the Dubuque County Sheriff’s Department.

Department officials were notified Tuesday that 24 of those samples — all from inmates — were positive for COVID-19.

Sheriff: Jail outbreak likely started with staff

Dubuque County’s sheriff said Wednesday that a COVID-19 outbreak that now has infected 28 county inmates almost certainly started with jail staff.

“I don’t see a way an inmate would have transmitted the virus to another inmate,” said Sheriff Joe Kennedy.

Officials announced Friday that the first inmate in Dubuque County Jail had tested positive for the coronavirus. Results received Tuesday showed another 23 inmates with COVID-19, and four more were confirmed Wednesday.

Weeks earlier, two jail staff members reported symptoms and tested positive, Kennedy disclosed Wednesday. But other jail staff members were not tested until the first inmate case of COVID-19 was confirmed on Friday.

“At that time, we didn’t really have any (other) people around showing or complaining of symptoms,” Kennedy said. “One staff member had worked one day and wasn’t really around inmates. … And the other works nights and (was) not in direct contact with inmates. At that point, we thought we might be OK, given the (low) amount of contact they had with people in the jail. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.”

New data offers insight on local outbreaks

Most nursing homes in the tri-state area have not experienced known COVID- 19 outbreaks, according to new federal data.

The figures, released each week by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, include the incidence of COVID-19 cases and deaths along with staffing and supply information.

CMS has listed 36 nursing homes in the TH coverage area, which includes Clayton, Delaware, Dubuque, Jackson and Jones counties in Iowa; Crawford, Grant, Iowa and Lafayette counties in Wisconsin; and Jo Daviess County in Illinois. Collectively, they house more than 1,700 residents.

COVID- 19 poses a serious threat in nursing homes because residents, often elderly and with underlying health conditions, are at high risk of dying from the disease’s complications. “Our population is very vulnerable, and we know that,” said Matt Jahn, director of health services at Stonehill Care Center in Dubuque. “With the precautions and guidelines that are in place, we are all following very stringent, regulated requirements to try to mitigate transmission as much as possible.”

City settles lawsuit alleging racial profiling

The City of Dubuque and Dubuque County recently settled a lawsuit filed by a Black woman who alleged racial profiling and excessive force by law enforcement.

Tiffani L. Anderson, 45, of Dubuque, dropped her lawsuit against Dubuque police officer Ryan Scherrman and Dubuque County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Robert Freund earlier this month, according to court records.

Anderson was removed from her car and shot with a stun gun during a 2018 traffic stop for a seat belt violation. A jury found her guilty of interference with official acts but not guilty of interference with official acts resulting in injury.

Attorney Les Reddick, who is representing the city, county and their two employees, said the parties agreed to settle for $7,500 each, paid out by an Iowa government insurance provider.

Push to rename airport terminal advances

Efforts to rename Dubuque’s airport terminal in honor of a pioneering Black World War II combat pilot advanced Tuesday as community support builds.

The all-white Dubuque Regional Airport Commission voted unanimously to establish a subcommittee to review a petition filed by Dubuque resident Dawnelle Gordon to name the airport terminal in honor of Robert L. Martin, a Dubuque native and Tuskegee Airman.

Airport Commission Chairman Douglas Brotherton said the commission is receptive to naming the terminal for Martin, and will work with Gordon and Martin’s family to study suitable options.

“We’re going to move forward, and, hopefully, come up with a solution that meets everyone’s approval and moves our community forward,” Brotherton said after the meeting.

District unveils plans for 2nd Senior High renovation

School district leaders last week considered a $32.6 million proposal for a second round of renovations at Dubuque Senior High School.

Schematic designs include the renovation of classroom, practice and storage space in the visual arts, music and theater departments; creation of new special education and physical education learning spaces; installation of air conditioning throughout the entire building; revamping the school auditorium; and construction of two major additions. The proposed three-year project would conclude in July 2024.