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UPDATE: Search for missing man moves to Janesville area

WATERLOO – The search for a Waverly man who disappeared from a Waterloo care center moved north to Janesville on Wednesday after authorities received reports of possible sightings in the area.

Two residents reported seeing a person resembling 46-year-old Mike Jensen in the 6000 block of Waverly Road around dusk Tuesday night, a day after he left Ravenwood Care Center in Waterloo.

Michael Jensen

“Both were consistent, and the fact they were both reasonably consistent causes us to believe that they are worth following up with,” said Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson.

The sightings, which had him wearing a fall-protection helmet while walking, weren’t reported to authorities until Wednesday, officials said.

Jensen suffers from a brain tumor that can trigger seizures, authorities said.

“It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that he’s not just out wandering aimlessly; he’s trying to get back to Waverly, or he’s trying to do something purposeful,” Thompson said.

About 70 searchers led by law enforcement and Iowa Task Force One, a state search and rescue unit, scoured the neighborhood around Ravenwood on Wednesday morning before relocating to Janesville and then traveling south on Waverly Road toward Cedar Falls.

Two others sightings Wednesday morning in Waterloo turned out to be other people, officers said.

Capt. Joe Leibold with the Waterloo Police Department said officers have used dogs and drones in addition to searching on foot. He asked residents to check their yards, sheds, campers and vehicles.

Dogs also were sent to try to pick up a scent in Cedar Falls, where there was an unconfirmed sighting on Division Street on Tuesday morning.

Jensen, a former Wartburg College music instructor, has been living at Ravenwood Care Center on St. Francis Drive in Waterloo. His family’s struggle with his tumor and treatment was featured in the 2018 film “This Day Forward.”

Last week, friends became concerned because the center reportedly said that due to COVID-19 protocols, it wouldn’t let him return if he left to attend a daughter’s graduation party.

Jensen, who has been known to wander off before, normally stayed in a secured room at the center, according to police, but he was recently moved to another room.

Sometime Monday night, Jensen escaped through a window, according to the police report. He had been missing for about 50 minutes before police were notified at 11:20 p.m., the report states.

Officers searched the area that night but weren’t able to locate him.

Jensen is described as a white male, 5-feet, 10-inches tall and weighing 180 pounds. He was last seen wearing gray sweatpants, a plaid button-up shirt, a black helmet and black framed glasses, and may be barefoot.

Anyone with information regarding Jensen is asked to call the Waterloo Police Department at (319) 291-2515.

PHOTOS: Search for Mike Jensen

PHOTOS: Search for Mike Jensen

Pandemic saps Iowa casino revenue by about 20 percent

DES MOINES — Casinos are back to wheeling and dealing — sort of — after the coronavirus knocked them offline for 11 weeks and caused fiscal 2020 revenue to tank by about 20% for the fiscal year that ended June 30.

Preliminary estimates compiled by the state Racing & Gaming Commission showed the 19 state-licensed casinos reported adjusted gross revenue topping $1.16 billion — strikingly lower than the nearly $1.457 billion posted last fiscal year and the record $1.47 billion in fiscal 2012.

Fiscal 2020 revenue — which plummeted when casinos were ordered to close for nearly three months due to the COVID-19 pandemic — was the lowest since 2006.

And the 15.5 million visitors marked the lowest admissions since 1996. Yearly admission at Iowa’s casinos had topped 23 million in some fiscal years.

“There’s no script for preparing for a pandemic,” said Wes Ehrecke, spokesman for the Iowa Gaming Association, an umbrella group for the state-licensed casinos.

All 19 casinos have reopened after Gov. Kim Reynolds lifted an order June 1 that had closed them and many other businesses effective March 17.

They still face capacity restrictions and public health requirements.

Ehrecke said many casinos are “just inching forward, if you will, to get to what I would call this phase of normal, but that’s certainly not the complete normal that we had before March 16.”

Brian Ohorilko, administrator for the state gaming commission, said June revenue was off about 5.5 percent from the previous year as casinos cautiously resumed operations — many with limited table games and spacing that reduced patron capacities.

Revenue was up at nine casinos in June, but down at 10 others.

Casinos in the Quad Cities, Clinton, Dubuque, Burlington and Riverside “did really well” thanks in part to an absence of competition from Illinois casinos.

But overall admissions were off by about 38 percent — a total likely impacted by a delayed reopening of the Prairie Meadows racetrack-casino in Altoona and the reopening of the Harrah’s casino in Council Bluffs until this month.

The August arrival of legal sports wagering with online betting proved to be a financial savior for many casinos, Ohorilko noted.

College and pro football seasons got sports wagering off to “a very positive” start and many casinos were seeing a surge in overall gambling activity before the pandemic.

“The numbers would have been lower had the facilities not been able to offer sports betting,” the administrator said.

Ohorilko said all casinos are in relatively good financial shape. Six benefited from federal Payroll Protection Program. But he noted that “it’s still really hard to tell what to expect” in the future.

“I think everyone is cautiously optimistic that everything will be OK, but it really is too early to tell how the market is going to respond,” he said.

Ehrecke said while “it’s great to be reopened,” the challenge now is to provide as much confidence as possible to patrons and employees by sanitizing, disinfecting, providing appropriate barriers, encouraging the wearing of masks and implementing other safety measures.

“I do know that there are those who are hesitant to come to a casino or to go out anywhere still, and I certainly respect that thought,” he said. “There are people who aren’t ready to come. It’s just going to take time.”

CDC: Minorities hit hardest in packing plant outbreaks

A new report studying the impact of the coronavirus on workers at meat processing plants has found 87% of people infected were racial or ethnic minorities and that at least 86 workers have died.

The report released Tuesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention examined more than 16,000 COVID-19 cases at 239 plants in 21 states. It offers perspective on how the virus devastated U.S. pork, beef and poultry processing plants, but the figures likely understate the problem as Iowa officials declined to participate in the study.

Iowa is the nation’s largest pork-producing state and saw severe coronavirus outbreaks at several huge processing plants, including the Tyson plant in Waterloo where more than 1,000 of the plant’s 2,800 workers were infected and at least five died.

The CDC report found 87% of coronavirus cases occurred among racial and ethnic minorities even though they made up 61% of the overall worker population. The data shows 56% of coronavirus illnesses involved Hispanic workers, 19% were non-Hispanic Blacks and 12% were Asians. The data showed 13% of coronavirus cases involved white workers, who made up 39% of the overall workforce studied.

“The effects of COVID-19 on racial and ethnic minority groups are not yet fully understood; however, current data indicate a disproportionate burden of illness and death among these populations,” the CDC said. “Ongoing efforts to reduce incidence and better understand the effects of COVID-19 on the health of racial and ethnic minorities are important to ensure that workplace-specific prevention strategies and intervention messages are tailored to those groups most affected by COVID-19.”

The agency said about 9% of more than 112,600 meatpacking plant workers at plants in 14 states came down with the illness caused by the coronavirus. The percentage of workers with COVID-19 ranged from 3.1% to 24.5% per facility.

United Food and Commercial Workers Union International Vice President Mark Lauritsen said workers need real enforcement of the highest safety standards in meatpacking and other essential industries.

“This new CDC report makes clear what UFCW has been saying for months. The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over and its impact on front-line workers — especially workers of color — is continuing to increase,” he said. “American workers simply cannot survive with the current patchwork of safety measures put in place by a fraction of companies and states. Without a strong national standard, millions of workers are still unprotected and vulnerable.”

The union, which represents over 250,000 workers in meatpacking and food processing, said the CDC data is consistent with its data but likely under counts those affected since the data comes from fewer than half the states. The union said at least 76 workers deaths have been reported at plants it represents and 15,682 workers have been infected or exposed.

A spokeswoman for The North American Meat Institute, a trade group for the meat processing industry, did not immediately respond to a message. The animal slaughtering and processing industry employs an estimated 525,000 workers in about 3,500 facilities nationwide.

The CDC noted that Iowa was among the states that didn’t contribute coronavirus-related meat processing plant data. Iowa is the nation’s leading pork producer and has about a dozen large-scale meat processing plants. Many had outbreaks sickening hundreds of workers. The Iowa Department of Public Health did not respond to a message seeking comment on why the state didn’t provide the CDC with data.

US infections reach 3M

LOS ANGELES — Four months, 3 million confirmed infections and over 130,000 deaths into the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., Americans confronted with a resurgence of the scourge are facing long lines at testing sites in the summer heat or are getting turned away. Others are going a week or more without receiving a diagnosis.

Determined to reopen America’s schools despite coronavirus worries, President Donald Trump threatened Wednesday to hold back federal money if school districts don’t bring their students back in the fall. He complained his own public health officials’ safety guidelines are impractical and too expensive.

Shortly afterward, Vice President Mike Pence announced the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would be issuing new guidance next week “that will give all new tools to our schools.” The recommendations will keep students safe, he said, but “the president said today we just don’t want the guidance to be too tough.”

Despite Trump’s increased pressure on state and local officials, New York City announced most of its students would return to classrooms only two or three days a week and would learn online in between. “Most schools will not be able to have all their kids in school at the same time,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

For a nation that prides itself on its public school system, it’s an extraordinary situation.

While the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. hit 3 million Wednesday by Johns Hopkins University’s count, health officials have said that because of inadequate testing and the many mild infections that have gone unreported, the real number is about 10 times higher, or almost 10% of the U.S. population.

On Wednesday, Iowa reported 414 news cases of coronavirus for a total of 32,343 and seven new deaths, which now total 732. Black Hawk County had 26 new cases for a total of 2,341 and 58 deaths. No new deaths were reported Wednesday.

Some coronavirus testing sites are running out of kits, while labs are reporting shortages of materials and workers to process the swabs.

Some frustrated Americans are left to wonder why the U.S. can’t seem to get its act together, especially after it was given fair warning as the virus wreaked havoc in China and then Italy, Spain and New York.

“It’s a hot mess,” said 47-year-old Jennifer Hudson of Tucson, Arizona. “The fact that we’re relying on companies and we don’t have a national response to this, it’s ridiculous. … It’s keeping people who need tests from getting tests.”

It took Hudson five days to make an appointment through a CVS pharmacy near her home. She booked a drive-up test over the weekend, more than a week after her symptoms — fatigue, shortness of breath, headache and sore throat — first emerged. The clinic informed her her results would probably be delayed.

Testing has been ramped up nationwide, reaching about 640,000 tests per day on average, up from around 518,000 two weeks ago, according to an Associated Press analysis. Newly confirmed infections per day in the U.S. are running at over 50,000, breaking records at practically every turn.

More testing tends to lead to more cases found. But in an alarming indicator, the percentage of tests coming back positive for the virus is on the rise across nearly the entire country, hitting almost 27% in Arizona, 19% in Florida and 17% in South Carolina.

While the U.S. has conducted more tests than any other nation, it ranks in the middle of the pack in testing per capita, behind Russia, Spain and Australia, according to Johns Hopkins University.

“I am stunned that as a nation, six months into this pandemic, we still can’t figure out how to deliver testing to the American people when they need it,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, director of Harvard’s Global Health Institute. “It is an abject failure of leadership and shows that the federal government has not prioritized testing in a way that will allow us to get through this pandemic.”

Testing alone without adequate contact tracing and quarantine measures won’t control the spread of the scourge, according to health experts. But they say delays in testing can lead to more infections by leaving people in the dark as to whether they need to isolate themselves.

In other developments:

  • A crowd of thousands attending President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in late June, along with large groups of people who showed up to protest, “likely contributed” to a dramatic surge in new coronavirus cases in the area, Tulsa City-County Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart said Wednesday. Tulsa County reported 261 confirmed cases Monday, a new record one-day high, and another 206 confirmed cases Tuesday. A spokesman for the Trump campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
  • Top U.S. allies Wednesday denounced the planned pullout of the United States from the World Health Organization, with the Italian health minister calling it “wrong” and a political ally of Germany’s chancellor warning that the withdrawal could make more room on the world stage for China.
  • A health official in South Africa’s new coronavirus hot spot of Gauteng province says authorities are preparing over 1.5 million gravesites as confirmed cases rise. Bandile Masuku, a medical doctor and member of the province’s executive council, said it was the public’s responsibility to make sure the gravesites were not needed.