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County publishes map showing COVID-19 cases by ZIP code

A map published by the Rock County Public Health Department shows the highest density of COVID-19 cases are in the 53511 and 53546 ZIP codes.

The map was published Tuesday, when the county also confirmed its fourth death from COVID-19.

As of Tuesday, there have been 59 confirmed cases and four deaths in Rock County.

The number of cases has been corrected since Monday’s report of 60 cases, according to a daily update from the health department.

Health officials say there are likely 10 people infected for every confirmed case.

The ZIP code data is based on cases as of April 9, when the county reported 47 cases and two deaths. That means at least 12 cases are not accounted for on the ZIP code map.

The map will be updated weekly, Kelsey Cordova, public information officer for the health department, said in an email to The Gazette.

The ZIP codes with the highest number of cases also have larger populations and therefore are expected to have more cases, Cordova said.

The 53511 and 53546 ZIP codes have more than 10 confirmed cases each, according to the map.

Those ZIP codes cover much of the city and town of Beloit, town of Newark, town of Turtle, southeastern Janesville, Avalon and the town of La Prairie.

The 53548 ZIP code—covering the west side of Janesville, sections of town of Janesville, town of Rock and Footville—has between five and nine cases, according to the map.

The rest of the county’s ZIP codes have fewer than five confirmed cases each, according to the map.

Health department officials for weeks had refused to release geographic information about COVID-19 cases, citing privacy concerns.

“The numbers of positive cases has reached a point where risk of individual identification by release of this information is lowered,” said Health Officer Marie-Noel Sandoval in a daily update. “... Additional information may be made available as the number of cases increases and risk of individual identification is lessened.”

The health department still has not released the municipalities where people with confirmed cases live.

Representatives from Janesville and Rock County have clashed over the release of COVID-19 data for weeks.

The Janesville City Council on Monday approved a resolution urging the release of more information, including ZIP codes and other geographic information.

The Gazette was unable to reach a representative from the city for comment before press time Tuesday.

The health department advises all residents to stay home and social distance regardless of what ZIP code they live in.

A release from the state Department of Health Services on Tuesday said safer-at-home guidelines and social distancing efforts are working across the state.

“Without effective treatments or a vaccine, the only way to slow the spread of COVID-19 is through non-pharmaceutical interventions that help us maintain physical distancing,” said Ryan Westergaard, state epidemiologist. “The safer-at-home order has been our main intervention in Wisconsin, and we are beginning to see the results.”

A worker helping build apartments uses a lift Tuesday near East Racine Street and Interstate 90/39 in Janesville.

Obituaries and death notices for April 15, 2020

Geraldine “Teeny” “Geri” Arthur

Duane K. Ballentine

Joseph R. Branks

Dennis Lee Matzinger

Joyce L. Powell

Dorothy E. Sleep

Timothy Vande Hei

Joanne Verwers

Go or no go? Janesville school referendum up in the air


We’re a long way from the November elections, but Aug. 11 is significantly closer.

That’s when the Janesville School Board was supposed to decide if it wants to go to referendum—either in November or sometime in the future.

Some board members believe the school district has a lot on its plate now considering the COVID-19 crisis.

“One of the key pieces of planning is the community input sessions,” school board President Steve Huth said. “Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the anticipated listening sessions/conversations that were scheduled for May can’t occur.”

District officials say they need to ask voters for money to help pay for maintenance. The district currently has more than $100 million in needed upgrades, ranging from roof repairs and more handicapped-accessible bathrooms to better school security.

Each year, the district budgets about $1.4 million for maintenance outside of custodial work and capital improvements. But as buildings age, many upgrades won’t fit into that $1.4 million maintenance budget.

Previously, school districts were allowed to use Act 32 to exceed their revenue caps if they made energy-efficient upgrades. But Act 32 is no longer an option.

A successful referendum would allow the district to exceed its revenue caps by a certain amount, which has not yet been set.

Huth said the district, like most organizations, is operating on a “week-to-week and month-to-month” basis to keep up with changes caused by the coronavirus, which has closed schools and forced teachers to teach students online.

When the planned listening sessions finally happen and surveys are distributed, Huth acknowledged that the pandemic might change people’s responses.

“If the community is still in crisis, if unemployment is still high, I can’t imagine the board being in favor of going to a referendum,” Huth said.

“We as a board have to keep planning. The hope is that things will get better.”

Board member Michelle Haworth, who has three children in district schools, thinks the referendum should be put on the back burner. The district just started online schooling April 6.

“Right now, I think we need to focus on our students’ education,” she said.

Depending on how things go, she said she wouldn’t oppose returning to the issue. The Janesville district’s needs are not going away, she said.

Board member Karl Dommershausen agreed.

“We’re going to have to tackle them (maintenance needs) sometime,” he said. “Would putting it off for a while make sense? We’ll have to see how things go.”

The challenge is that everything changes so quickly, he said.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen, and that’s our biggest problem,” Dommershausen said.