As COVID-19 cases trend upward and virus transmission remains elevated in the region, the city of Janesville is ahead of Rock County’s overall vaccination rate and that of the city of Beloit, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
In Rock County, 52.1% of residents have received one dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine and 48.7% of residents have completed vaccination. Meanwhile, 54.8% of Janesville residents have gotten a single vaccine dose, and 51.6% are fully inoculated, according to state numbers published Monday.
In contrast, DHS data shows 39.5% of residents in Beloit have received one dose and 36.3% have completed vaccination.
Rock County’s number of vaccines administered has rebounded slightly after hitting a nadir the week of July 11 when 1,385 doses were given.
Last week, 1,713 doses of vaccine were administered, marking the highest uptake total since the week of June 20 when 1,753 doses were given, according to the state data. Prior to this week, more than 1,700 doses had not been given since that week.
Of the eligible residents in Rock County able to be vaccinated, 59.7% have received one dose and 58.4% of eligible residents have completed vaccination. Those eligible for COVID-19 vaccines are people over the age of 12.
In Wisconsin, the week of Aug. 1 saw the most vaccines administered—54,308—since late June. Statewide, 52.7% of residents have received a COVID-19 vaccine dose and 49.8% of residents have completed vaccination.
Since Aug. 2, COVID-19 transmission in Rock and Walworth counties remains high, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In Walworth County, 120 positive cases of COVID-19 were reported between Aug. 1 and 7. A county is considered a high-transmission area when it reaches 100 cumulative cases per 100,000 people.
About 104,000 people live in the county, so the county’s rate last week was about 115 per 100,000.
In Rock County, 188 cases were reported as of Monday between Aug. 1 and Aug. 7, putting its rate near Walworth County’s 115 per 100,000, according to the CDC.
A city of Beloit spokesperson said Monday that the city’s mask requirement for city employees and the public while on city-owned property remained in effect. Vaccination is voluntary for all public employees.
Municipal COVID-19 data for Beloit and Janesville, along with other Rock County municipalities, was not updated Monday because some health department staff was out of the office, a spokesperson confirmed.
In terms of new cases, Rock County reported 54 new infections Monday, bringing the countywide total to 16,891 cases. Deaths stood at 185. Countywide, 34% of all COVID-19 infections are of people between the ages of 15 and 34, Rock County Public Health Department data shows.
Statewide, Wisconsin reported its highest weekly average of new COVID-19 infections since Feb. 5 with 1,087 cases reported last week. The state’s seven-day test positivity rate is now at 7.4%. Since the start of the pandemic, 630,296 confirmed cases and 7,454 confirmed deaths have been reported in Wisconsin.
In the U.S., 35.82 million cases have been reported along with 614,856 deaths, CDC data shows. A total of 58% of residents in the U.S. have received one vaccine dose; 50.2% of residents have completed vaccination.
The Milton School Board put another piece of its COVID-19 protocols for the upcoming school year into place Monday when it unanimously passed a mask mandate for passengers and drivers on school-operated buses.
Pandemic guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state “passengers and drivers must wear a mask on school buses including on buses operated by public and private school systems.”
During a committee report from school board member Dave Holterman, he said the district’s legal counsel advised following the order because not doing so “would put us in a potential legal liability for a variety of reasons.” District Superintendent Rich Dahman said the district’s insurance company strongly urged compliance with the order.
Other discussion at Monday’s meeting focused on the district’s previously enacted “mask optional” policy for students and whether it might change in light of recent changes to the CDC’s mask recommendation guidelines that the Rock County Public Health Department favors.
Catherine Fossum, who said she is new to the Milton School District, was concerned about the district’s “mask optional” policy and wondered why masks won’t be required. She cited the CDC data tracker showing that COVID-19 transmission in Rock County is currently in the “high” category.
“I received information last week from the school district that the face coverings are now optional, though the CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics and Rock County health department all strongly recommend mask wearing at schools, particularly for those who are unvaccinated,” Fossum said. “As a parent who is new to the school district who has a child going into kindergarten this year who obviously is unable to be vaccinated right now, I’m at a loss for understanding as to why masks are not going to be required.”
A number of other people apparently in favor of the current policy brought signs to the meeting that read “Thank you for mask choice.”
No action was taken to change the district’s mask policy for the upcoming school year, which says face coverings are optional for all students and staff and that those who are not yet vaccinated are encouraged to wear a mask.
Dahman then went over the county health department’s guidance for school districts.
He said the American Academy of Pediatrics and CDC recommend masks to be worn indoors by all vaccinated and unvaccinated people in school settings and that a physical distance of at least 3 feet be kept in schools. The definition of a “close contact” in a school setting was also updated to include people who have been within 3 feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes.
“We meet regularly with the Rock County health department, and they give us updates on both what’s happening across the county and across our school district,” Dahman said. “In our last update, which was on Aug. 5, they reported that the number of positive cases are increasing both across the county and across our school district.”
Other protocols say:
Dahman also reported guidelines for the return of high school sports. These say that full vaccination is strongly encouraged, that masks are strongly encouraged for people who are not fully vaccinated and that schools follow local health department guidelines.
On the question of spectators for sporting events, Director of Athletics and Activities Jeff Spiwak said the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association did not set spectator limits for the 2021-22 school year and that individual districts will be given local control over the matter.
Under a new city rule, dogs will still be allowed inside Janesville’s two city-owned cemeteries, but from now on, they must remain leashed.
That’s a less stringent restriction than a new rule city council member Paul Williams said he sought through an ordinance change that was shot down by the rest of the council Monday: an outright ban on dogs in city cemetery properties.
Williams seemed nonplussed Monday night after the council voted 6-1 to place signs at the city’s Oak Hill and Dillenbeck cemeteries notifying dog owners they must keep their pets leashed while at city cemeteries.
Williams was the only council member to vote for a full moratorium on pooches at the city’s cemeteries. He said he considers dogs running—and doing their business—inside cemeteries a “desecration” of land meant to be a dignified final resting place for humans.
Williams said most of his family, including his parents, is buried at Oak Hill. Williams said other families with relatives buried at the scenic, hilly cemetery on the city’s northwest side have complained recently that dog owners are allowing their canines to run at the park unleashed.
He said families also have complained that they have witnessed dog owners allowing their pets to urinate or defecate directly on grave sites or grave markers.
He said he has seen people pull their vehicles into the cemetery and let their dogs out unleashed to run around the graveyard unattended.
“It’s a cemetery, not a dog park,” Williams said Monday. “The way I was raised is that cemeteries are a place for respect, not only for the deceased but for the mourners. It’s hallowed ground.”
Some other nearby Wisconsin cities, including Milton and Madison, specifically prohibit dogs in city cemeteries, but Janesville has never had such a ban in place.
At the time most of the city’s dog ordinances were written, the city had not yet taken over ownership of the 80-acre, wooded Oak Hill cemetery, or the much smaller family plot at Dillenbeck off Highway 14.
But the city prohibits dogs in city parks for most of the year. And with the exception of the city’s open dog run and fenced dog park on the south side, Janesville requires dogs to be leashed on public property.
The city’s Parks and Recreation Committee recommended the council stop short of a full ban on dogs in city cemeteries and instead favored signs to remind people of rules on leashing dogs in public.
Among reports he has gotten, Williams said one resident whose property backs up to Oak Hill Cemetery drew a recent visit from police after someone saw her scoop her dog’s “dog-doo” out of her own yard and fling it into the cemetery lawn to get rid of it.
Although Williams finds such animal and human behavior offensive, he said he’s “pro-cemetery,” not “anti-dog.”
City council members Douglas Marklein and Susan Johnson on Monday openly opposed the idea of a dog ban in cemeteries.
Marklein says he knows one woman who promised her late husband that she and their dog would visit his gravesite together.
Marklein kept referring to the dog by name as “Cuddles.”
Marklein didn’t think a full ban would stop most people from taking their pooches to cemeteries, but he hoped some prominently placed signs might encourage people to leash their dogs and pick up after them.
Other council members, including Paul Benson, said it doesn’t seem that policing of a cemetery dog ban or even leash rules would be easily enforceable under the Janesville Police Department’s current staffing and public safety priorities.
Williams said the “24,000 people” buried in Oak Hill cemetery have rights, and he vowed to introduce another full ban on dogs in graveyards in the future.
“People have the right not to have their final resting place used as a restroom,” Williams said.
Lorraine A. Giebel
Joyce C. Hubred
Richard Ellsworth “Rick” Lee
Ann Marie Morkrid
Grant R. Mullen
Robert Walter “Bob” Wagner
Colleen F. Wallis
William Duane “Bill” Zenk