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This is Nathan Ford with the Gazette digital news desk, and I’m here with your update for Tuesday, Sept. 22.
It will be mostly sunny today with a high near 81 in Cedar Rapids, according to the National Weather Service.
If U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell begins the confirmation of President Donald Trump’s nominee to full a Supreme Court vacancy before the November election — as he has said he will do — Sen. Chuck Grassley. R-Iowa, said Monday he will fulfill his “responsibility to evaluate the nominee on the merits, just as I always have.” Grassley, who as Judiciary Committee chairman in 2016, incurred the wrath of Democrats when he refused to hold hearings on the-President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. He cited the so-called Biden Rule that stemmed from a speech then-Sen. Joe Biden made in 1992 saying that the Senate should not fill a high court vacancy until after the presidential election. Grassley said earlier this year that’s still his position. However, in a statement Monday, Grassley said there are significant differences between the current situation and the 2016 vacancy.
It was the first day of school in Cedar Rapids yesterday, about a month after the Cedar Rapids Community School District's original start date of Aug. 24. Classes were delayed after the Aug. 10 derecho damaged every school building in the Cedar Rapids system. The district received forgiveness of required instructional days from the Iowa Department of Education, and will maintain the last day of school this academic year as June 1, 2021. Like every other school district in the nation, Cedar Rapids is also coping with the coronavirus pandemic. Over 50 percent of Cedar Rapids students are enrolled in in-person learning, 26 percent are enrolled in temporary remote learning and almost 8 percent, or 1,000 students, chose the Cedar Rapids Virtual Academy. High school students will start the year online only. The district's high school buildings — Kennedy, Jefferson and Washington, as well as Taft Middle School — are under construction to repair damage caused by the derecho. The buildings are expected to be open for students by Jan. 4.
COVID-19 cases among young people and those working in the education field continued to rise Monday, according to Iowa Department of Public Health data analyzed by The Gazette. As of 11 a.m. Monday, Iowa reported 90 new positive cases among young people age 17 and under, bringing the total number of infected children to 6,430. There were 78 new cases among people working in the education field for a total of 3,158 positive cases. As a whole, Iowa reported 649 people tested positive for the coronavirus in the 24-hour period ending at 11 a.m., and one person died. The state's death toll is now 1,266.
Grinnell College canceled classes Monday in light of the death of Michael Williams, a 44-year old Black Grinnell man whose body was found last week in a burning ditch in rural central Iowa. Authorities were called around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday for a fire in a ditch near Kellogg. Officials responded and quickly extinguished the flames, then found Williams’ body. Police have not given information on how Williams died, but have declared his death a homicide. The college noted that some people in the community fear Williams may have been targeted because of his race.