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Lions Beach was a hot spot for cooling off Thursday as temperature soared into the mid-90s. The heat wave is expected to continue today—with a high of 95 degrees—and through the weekend. For more on the weather, turn to 13A.

Obituaries and death notices for June 11, 2021

Drevian T. “Bishop” Allen

Richard B. “Rick” Anderson

Alan “Al” Cashore

Wendy Kay (Fink) Delaney

Ronald J. Foley Sr.

Jared M. Graf

Nancy K. Gunn

Terry John Hesgard

Roy A. Hollenberger

Allen Joseph Johnson

Shirley Ilene Maier

John R. Matzke

William L. McClintock

Francis Eugene McCumber

Dorothy J. “Dottie” Newton

Robert C. Prochazka

Schuyler Ernest “SkyGuy” Ripp

Carol June (Nightengale) Swenson

Joseph S. Usher Sr.

Dennis J. Venable

Maj. Dale H. Wright

Summer school numbers slightly down at some area districts

Summer school numbers are a bit down at some area school districts.

In the summer of 2019, prior to COVID-19, there were almost 4,600 registrations for various classes, according to information from Janesville School District spokesperson Patrick Gasper.

Last year, during the virtual summer school of 2020, registrants dropped to 1,450. As of Tuesday afternoon, the district was at 4,000 signups. Gasper estimated that is about 88% of normal attendance for summer school.

Why the attendance is lower is unknown, Gasper said. But he noted enrollment in public schools is down across the state. He said some parents are still concerned about the potential spread of COVID-19 and that not all kids are eligible for vaccines yet. Other families could be using the summer for travel after being cooped up during the pandemic year.

The district will continue to reach out to families to remind them about offerings, including free swimming lessons, a popular offering each year.

Summer school in Janesville opened Monday and will run through July 2. Most attendees are grade and middle schoolers, although there are some credit recovery options for older students. There are also special courses for those at transition points, such as for those entering kindergarten or orientation for sixth-graders.

After the July 4 holiday, other enrichment activities, such as weeklong camps, take place, including computer science coding camp and a summer strings camp. A variety of swimming lessons are available in two sessions, and students can take athletic camps, golf, the Nature Navigators course at the Janesville Schools Outdoor Laboratory and more.

As of Monday, the Beloit School District had 1,187 students enrolled for summer school in 2021. It had 670 students enrolled for summer school in 2020 which was virtual. It had 2,069 summer school students in 2019, according to information from Superintendent Dan Keyser.

Currently, students are enrolling for their high school courses, and the district will have numbers next Monday about student course selection of credit recovery and initial credit courses.

The Beloit School District will have three sessions of summer school for elementary and intermediate school students, which starts June 22 The high school’s offerings kick off next Monday.

Summer school will be full-time and in person after the district offered distance learning only for most of the 2020-21 school year. The district switched to a hybrid model with two days a week of in-person learning in April.

“We knew at the onset of our summer school planning that a five-day-a-week, in-person option would be beneficial and meet the needs of our families and students in many ways,” Keyser said. “I am pleased to see that so many of our families are able to take advantage of our comprehensive and enriching summer school program. We have worked hard to ensure that we are providing strong learning opportunities along with social engagement opportunities for our students.”

Summer school in the Clinton School District has 150 students coming in the first session and 140 in the second session with the musical and credit recovery attendance being around 25 students, according to Clinton Elementary and Summer School Principal Ben Simmons.

Simmons said numbers are only slightly down.

The Clinton district started with a cohort model, with some days in person and some days with virtual learning. Students had seven weeks of virtual time around the holidays and came back in mid-January to cohort instruction and went to full-time, in-person instruction in mid-February.

Simmons said it made for a long year and students who might be ready for a break. Nevertheless, there are plenty of opportunities for students this summer.

In Clinton, students in kindergarten through sixth grade have enrichment courses and fun classes such as “Under the Sea” or “Fun with Science” June 14 to July 2. A second session, July 12 to 30 helps kids get ready for the grade they will enter in the fall. A summer musical is held for kids in seventh through 12th grades, and a strength and conditioning course is available for middle and high schoolers. Summer school also is available for middle schoolers to make up or retake assessments and for high schoolers to recover credits.

The Beloit Turner School District started summer school Thursday. Summer school principal Ryan Bertelsen said there were about 240 students enrolled. There are also 82 students in a reading intervention program, participating both in person and virtually. The summer session will include core subjects such as reading and math, as well as courses in art, physical education, technology and music. Adams Publishing Group did not hear back from the district by press time regarding numbers for 2019 and 2020.

Summer school numbers in the Parkview School District are increasing. Superintendent Steve Lutzke said Parkview started summer school Tuesday and has about 180 students enrolled. Enrollment is about three times higher than last year and there are about 20 to 30 more students than in 2019.“Due to COVID-19, last year we didn’t do summer school until August and it ran from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. for two weeks,” Lutzke said. “This year, and years prior to COVID-19, we’ve had summer school in June and run it from 8 a.m. to noon for four weeks. We revamped our course offerings this year so students had more choice and flexibility. The revamped schedule allows a student to take some enrichment courses and some remedial courses. I think this is the reason for the increase.”

Another jump in prices tightens the squeeze on US consumers


American consumers absorbed another surge in prices in May—a 0.6% increase over April and 5% over the past year, the biggest 12-month inflation spike since 2008.

The May rise in consumer prices that the Labor Department reported Thursday reflected a range of goods and services now in growing demand as people increasingly shop, travel, dine out and attend entertainment events in a rapidly reopening economy.

The increased consumer appetite is bumping up against a shortage of components, from lumber and steel to chemicals and semiconductors, that supply such key products as autos and computer equipment, all of which has forced up prices. And as consumers increasingly venture away from home, demand has spread from manufactured goods to services—airline fares, for example, along with restaurant meals and hotel prices—raising inflation in those areas, too.

In its report Thursday, the government said that core inflation, which excludes volatile energy and food costs, rose 0.7% in May after an even bigger 0.9% increase in April and has risen 3.8% over the past year. That is the sharpest 12-month jump in core inflation since 1992. And it is far above the Federal Reserve’s 2% target for annual price increases.

Among specific items in May, prices for used vehicles, which had surged by a record 10% in April, shot up an additional 7.3% and accounted for one-third of May’s overall price jump. The price of new cars, too, rose 1.6%—the largest one-month increase since 2009.

The jump in new and used vehicle prices reflects supply chain problems that have caused a shortage of semiconductors. The lack of computer chips has limited production of new cars, which, in turn, has reduced the supply of used cars. As demand for vehicles has risen, prices have followed.

Republicans are concerned that greater government spending is contributing to inflation, as well.

Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Wis., said in a statement he is concerned about “reckless spending from Washington and the impact it is having.”

“Today’s report should be a wakeup call to get our spending under control before it is too late,” Steil said.

Higher prices were evident in a wide variety of categories in May, including household furnishings, which rose 0.9%, driven by a record jump in the price of floor coverings. Airline fares rose 7% after having increased 10.2% in April. Food prices rose 0.4%, with beef prices jumping 2.3%. Energy costs, though unchanged in May, are still up 56.2% in the past year.

From the cereal maker General Mills to Chipotle Mexican Grill to the paint maker Sherwin-Williams, a range of companies have been raising prices or plan to do so, in some cases to make up for higher wages they’re now paying to keep or attract workers. This week, for example, Chipotle Mexican Grill announced it was boosting menu prices by roughly 4% to cover the cost of raising its workers’ wages. In May, Chipotle had said that it would raise wages for its restaurant workers to reach an average of $15 an hour by the end of June.

Andrew Hunter, a senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics, noted that the price category that covers restaurant meals jumped 0.6% last month. He took that as evidence that labor shortages at restaurants, hotels and other service sector companies are beginning to fuel wage and price increases.

The inflation pressures are not only squeezing consumers but also posing a risk to the economy’s recovery from the pandemic recession. One risk is that the Fed will respond to intensifying inflation by raising interest rates too aggressively and derail the economic recovery.

The central bank, led by Chair Jerome Powell, has repeatedly expressed its belief that inflation will prove temporary as supply bottlenecks are unclogged and parts and goods flow normally again. But some economists have expressed concern that as the economic recovery accelerates, fueled by rising demand from consumers spending freely again, so will inflation.

The question is, for how long?

“The price spikes could be bigger and more prolonged because the pandemic has been so disruptive to supply chains,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. But “by the fall or end of the year,” Zandi suggested, “prices will be coming back to earth.”

So far, Fed officials haven’t deviated from their view that higher inflation is a temporary consequence of the economy’s rapid reopening, with its accelerating consumer demand, and the lack of enough supplies and workers to keep pace with it. Eventually, they say, supply will rise to match demand.

Officials also note that year-over-year gauges of inflation now look especially large because they are being measured against the early months of the pandemic, when inflation tumbled as the economy all but shut down. In coming months, the year-over-year inflation figures will likely look smaller.

Kathy Bostjancic, an economist at Oxford Economics, a consulting firm, suggested that that the effect of these so-called “base effects” will start to recede next month and that year-over-year measures of inflation should, too.

“This will be the peak in the annual rate of inflation,” Bostjancic said in a research note. “While we share the Fed’s view that this isn’t the start of an upward inflationary spiral, we look for inflation to remain persistently above 2% through 2022.”

Indeed, the government’s month-to-month readings of inflation, which aren’t subject to distortions from the pandemic, have also been rising since the year began. Some economists say they fear that if prices accelerate too much and stay high too long, expectations of further price increases will take hold. That, in turn, could intensify demands for higher pay, potentially triggering the kind of wage-price spiral that bedeviled the economy in the 1970s.

Investors so far appear unfazed by the risks of higher inflation. On Thursday, yields in the bond market declined in the hours after the government reported the surge in consumer prices. And stock prices rose.

“Investors were encouraged that drivers of this month’s inflation advance came from factors that indeed are likely to be transitory, such as used auto prices and airline travel,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA.

For now, though, rising commodity costs are forcing Americans to pay more for items from meat to gasoline. Prices for corn, grain and soybeans are at their highest levels since 2012. The price of lumber to build homes is at an all-time high. More expensive commodities, such as polyethylene and wood pulp, have translated into higher consumer prices for toilet paper, diapers and most products sold in plastic containers.

General Mills has said it’s considering raises prices on its products because grain, sugar and other ingredients have become costlier. Hormel Foods has already increased prices for Skippy peanut butter. Coca-Cola has said it expects to raise prices to offset higher costs.

Kimberly-Clark, which makes Kleenex and Scott toilet paper, said it will be raising prices on about 60% of its products. Proctor & Gamble has said it will raise prices for its baby, feminine and adult care products.

“There is stronger demand for hotel rooms, air travel, restaurant dining,” said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial. “Many businesses are also facing upward pressure on their costs such as higher wages.”

Milton’s Deegan Riley, left, Brett Wieland, right, and Xander Wuetrich celebrate after defeating Mukwonago 21-24 a one-hole team playoff Thursday morning to advance to the WIAA State Tournament for the first time since 1987.

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COVID-19 figures remain low after Rock County reopens


Although it has only been a few days since the Rock County health department discontinued its reopening plan, the county’s epidemiologist said Thursday that COVID-19 figures continue to be quite low.

Epidemiologist Nick Zupan said they are seeing an average of four new cases per day, and the county hasn’t seen any “drastic” increases in hospitalizations since health officials gave their blessing for county businesses to “fully reopen” Tuesday.

“We continue to see very, very low numbers of new cases reported to the health department,” Zupan said during a press conference Thursday. “All signs are positive right now. We’ll continue to monitor the data and the case activity moving forward.”

Also Tuesday, a Janesville School Board member said the health department didn’t give clear guidance for what local schools should do going forward. The board decided Tuesday night to lift the district’s mask mandate.

“They’re frankly not here,” board member Elizabeth Paull said of the health department.

In response, Health Officer Katrina Harwood said the health department shares what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends for schools.

“We see that feedback we received in the article as an opportunity to improve communication with the school board,” she said. “But again, we are encouraging schools to continue to follow CDC guidance, which does encourage mask wearing and distancing.”

It does not appear that the Janesville schools policy change actively encourages masks, however. Rather, the board decided to allow students and staff to wear them if they want to.

The Milton School District also decided this week to make mask wearing optional for inside and outside starting July 3, according to a letter from the superintendent.

Judges from the Rock County Courthouse kept a reopening plan in place for the building, though they are hoping to lift a mask requirement and only encourage mask use for those who are not vaccinated.

Zupan on Thursday said 47.5% of the county population has had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and that 41% of the county population is fully vaccinated, meaning they are at least two weeks from their last required dose.

Those who are interested in finding places to get a vaccine should visit RockCountyShot.com.

Health officials during the press conference emphasized that although many have gotten their vaccines and some restrictions are being lifted, the pandemic has not ended.

They stressed that getting tested for COVID-19 is as important now as it has been for more than a year. Officials will keep watching the emerging data to see if trends turn negative.

“We are at a better place today due to the collective effort and action of people who live and work in Rock County,” Harwood said. “We must continue to remain diligent to ensure the progress continues.”

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Health workers seek to boost COVID vaccination rate among minorities


On a hot, muggy Thursday morning, Sophia Lindsey walked into Clippers & Curls salon on Beloit’s east side.

Lindsey, a community COVID-19 ambassador for free clinic HealthNet of Rock County, carried a leatherette binder full of vaccination information and a message tailored to reach the more than 80% of local Black residents who are still not fully vaccinated against COVID.

Lindsey’s goal: to canvass the streets and meet face-to-face with Black residents to try to convince them to get vaccinated. She and HealthNet hope to convince 500 more people to get vaccinated at a time when local and national health data shows a flatlining in the number of people now getting the COVID vaccine.

Late Thursday morning, Lindsey had a list of about 15 residents she’d reached at a local apartment complex, a corner grocery and Clippers & Curls. Lindsey said she hopes she’ll get all those 15 to register for COVID vaccine jabs, either through HealthNet or another provider or clinic.

Lindsey’s planned to canvass the same locales again and again to try to reach more unvaccinated residents and learn why they’re not vaccinated—and whether she can convince them to get the vaccine. She’s even offered to pick the people up herself and drive them to their clinic appointment.

“We’re just out here talking. We’re not arguing or trying to change your mind if it’s already made up. We’re talking,” Lindsey said. “And talking seems like it’s the easy part, but it’s actually the hard part.”

In Rock County, a main challenge in an ongoing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic is that certain racial demographic groups continue to lag behind in vaccination.

A Gazette analysis of data from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services shows that about 17% of the Black population in Rock County is now fully vaccinated against COVID. That trails the statewide average vaccination rate of 21% for Black residents, and it’s significantly lower than the overall, 41% rate of full vaccination for all residents countywide.

Vaccine and race comparison

There’s an even bigger gap in the vaccination rate for local Hispanic residents. Here, about 21% of Rock County’s Hispanic residents are now fully vaccinated, a number that lags about 7 percentage points behind statewide averages for the Hispanic population.

It’s a shift from an earlier focus on mass-inoculation clinics, but the strategy, HealthNet of Rock County CEO Ian Hedges said, is the same: to get vaccine shots in arms at a time when most of the remaining unvaccinated population either is on the fence over whether to vaccinate or is opposed to it.

HealthNet’s targeted outreach—planned visits by ambassadors to public housing complexes, ethnic grocery stores and barbershops in predominately Black neighborhoods—represents a more surgical targeting of tougher-to-reach parts of the Black and Hispanic populations, which collectively make up about 25,000 of Rock County’s 163,000 residents.

That’s a significant slice of the overall population. Hedges said his strategy is to try to bring the vaccine—or at least the idea of vaccination—right in front of people who the message hasn’t been fully reaching.

Lindsey and Hedges list personal politics, uncertainty, fear or mistrust of the health care system, and a lack of a clear understanding of the relatively low degree of risk in COVID-19 vaccination as reasons why many minority residents have not gotten vaccinated.

A nonprofit study by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that as the overall number of people unopposed to vaccination receive their shots, the slice of the population that for months has taken a “wait and see” approach to getting the vaccine continues to dwindle.

Those who are still on the fence over a vaccine total just over 12% of the population, the Kaiser study estimates.

Hedges said that so far, only 12 states in the U.S. have reached an overall vaccination rate of 70%—a benchmark many public health officials believe would give the U.S. population so-called “herd immunity” from COVID.

Most states that have reached herd immunity—at least on paper—have seen concerted campaigns to reach out to underserved parts of the population such as minorities, those in extreme poverty or people who or homeless or have mental illnesses.

Hedges, whose nonprofit clinic has a disproportionately high number of minority patients, believes that Black and Hispanic populations could represent a higher percentage of those who might still be undecided about whether to get a vaccine.

He believes that a strategy which relies on finding and directly communicating with those people presents the county’s best shot at reaching herd immunity—or at least having enough people vaccinated that fewer neighborhoods or demographic slices of the population are at risk of hot spots for emerging COVID infection.

“We’re still finding that just because individuals say no to vaccination now, doesn't mean they will not want it later. Because we are seeing a lot of people that initially said no who are now saying yes,” Hedges said.

Nick Zupan, an epidemiologist for the Rock County Public Health Department, said the county considers the health care system’s supply of vaccine to be ample.

He said the county health department and private, community-based partners have continued to set up pop-up vaccine clinics in neighborhoods such as Janesville’s Fourth Ward, an area with a larger minority population, where county data shows a vaccination rates are among the lowest.

“We’re still seeing when we compare all our neighborhoods, we’re still seeing areas that have lower-than-average vaccination rates,” Zupan said. “I think it's going to be a circumstance where it's more work chipping away at the un-vaccinated population, rather than that we'll get like a deluge of un-vaccinated people to show up to some of these clinics. So the more opportunity you can offer, the better. And we think the higher the rates will continue to climb.”