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Health care workers at small or private organizations get vaccinated after weeks of hurdles

When Mary Crain reentered the workforce after 25 years to manage her husband’s dental office, she was greeted by weeks of headaches as she coordinated COVID-19 safety efforts.

Crain, who manages Cranston Family Dentistry in Beloit, said she has spent countless hours on the phone and online to find out how she could access COVID-19 testing, personal protective equipment and—finally—vaccines for her staff.

Crain felt relieved when she received a call early last week telling her that Mercyhealth was offering vaccines to independent health care organizations.

Getting vaccinated Thursday was “freeing,” she said.

“Mercy Hospital, my hat is off,” Crain said, complimenting Rock County’s largest health care system.

Mercyhealth and SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital-Janesville last week began offering COVID-19 vaccines to other health care organizations.

Both health systems continue to field requests from organizations looking to get vaccines for qualifying health care workers, representatives said.

On Thursday, 400 health care workers not affiliated with Mercyhealth Hospital and Trauma Center were vaccinated at the Janesville hospital.

Health care workers from all kinds of practices and organizations are considered part of the 1A COVID-19 vaccination priority group. However, several leaders of small health care organizations said logistics for getting their staffs vaccinated have been difficult to navigate.

Ian Hedges, CEO of the free charitable clinic HealthNet, was among the 400 people vaccinated Thursday.

HealthNet officials have heard little from the state about vaccine distribution despite having applied to be a vaccine provider at the same time as other health care systems, Hedges said.

Hedges said HealthNet’s application was in limbo until state Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, and former Democratic Rep. Deb Kolste of Janesville intervened on the nonprofit’s behalf.

Workers and prominent volunteers at HealthNet have close contact with vulnerable populations, so it was critical that they get vaccinated quickly, Hedges said.

That’s why HealthNet chose to work with Mercyhealth to get staff vaccinated versus waiting for clearance and resources from the state, he said.

Hedges said HealthNet’s application is now being reviewed so the nonprofit can distribute vaccines when they are available to the general public.

HealthNet already has a plan in place to distribute vaccines to people who might not be connected to primary care providers or health care systems, he said. The nonprofit plans to host community vaccination sites at the Janesville Community Center in the Fourth Ward and New Zion Baptist Church in Beloit once vaccines are available.

Leslie Hammer, owner of Hammer Chiropractic in Milton, said she started calling the county health department and emergency operations center as soon as she knew the vaccine was coming to the area.

Hammer said she quickly learned there was no plan for getting vaccines to private practices.

She contacted Mercyhealth directly, and about two weeks later, she and her staff were vaccinated.

Hammer and Cain acknowledged that the pandemic has moved quickly and the vaccine is new, which makes planning difficult at all levels.

Hedges said it is imperative that coordination and communication improve so lives—and the nation’s economy—can be saved.

Hammer Chiropractic never closed during the pandemic. Hammer said the staff met the chiropractic and physical therapy needs of people who postponed surgeries and were in pain or discomfort.

Hammer said her staff has been looking forward to the vaccine for a while.

Crain’s dental staff works regularly with aerosol equipment that blows air around the office, which has the potential to spread the coronavirus through the air.

Protecting staff who work inside people’s mouths has been challenging, Crain said.

Crain and her staff arrived at Mercyhealth hospital at 6 a.m. Thursday to make sure they were at the front of the line to get vaccinated. She is excited to tell patients that her team is protected from the virus once they all receive their second doses.

“It’s a happy day,” Crain said.

Milton's large-screen manufacturer to get larger


A manufacturer of screens for homes, backyards, large venues and golf simulators plans to start building a new 56,250-square-foot facility next month.

The new home of Carl’s Place will be on northwest corner of Putman Parkway and County M. The Milton City Council approved a tax increment financing agreement last month, and the project is expected to be finished by the end of the year.

“Carl” is Milton resident Carl Markestad, who in 2006 was looking for a large outdoor movie screen and had trouble finding the size he wanted. He then discovered he wasn’t the only one.

Carl’s Place focuses on the do-it-yourself market. Early on, it was even more DIY, selling only materials for people who wanted to build screens.

Today, the business offers projector screen material, finished-edge screens, hanging screen kits, standing screen kits, rear projection hanging kits, golf simulator enclosure kits, and other theater and golf simulator products.

Most Carl’s Place customers can add a projector and a home theater screen to their basement in a weekend, depending on what kind of wiring is needed and how handy they are. Last year, during the pandemic and safer-at-home order, more people tried their hand at being handy.

With golf courses closed for a while, Markestad said spring was a little busier for golf simulator products.

“The bigger bump that we saw was probably from people wanting to do outdoor drive-in-type movie screens,” he said. “We had a lot of inquiries from places trying to set up drive-ins. That was the easily identifiable spike last spring and summer.”

At the beginning of 2020, he said, “we were expecting pretty solid growth, but it was probably double what we thought it would be.”

He said Carl’s Place fills hundreds of orders in a week—and sometimes thousands.

While customers worldwide interact with the business via its website, Carl’s Place needs lots of room for its operations and employees behind the scenes.

Markestad began working on his dream full time in 2010. This year will be the second time the business has moved and expanded in Milton.

In 2015, Carl’s Place relocated from a 5,000-square-foot building at 1223 Storrs Lake Road to 1400 E. High St., where it is now. At the start of 2020, the building was 12,000 square feet; today, it is 24,000 square feet.

“Growth happens slow and steady but also to the point where it catches you by surprise sometimes,” Markestad said.

“You go from thinking you’ll never need any more space to feeling like we’re totally crowded here. It’s definitely a good challenge. I’m pretty proud of my team and what we’ve all been able to accomplish.”

The business currently employs about 25 people, and that number will grow, Markestad said.

The new site has room to expand the building by about 90,000 square feet.

“We manufacture big sheets of fabric, so the tables to lay the fabric out on are big,” he said. “Our people who sew each have a big table space to spread their work out on.”

A golf screen, for example, is about 10 feet tall and 16 feet wide.

While a lot is going on at 1400 E. High St., not everyone in the area knows about it. Carl’s Place doesn’t send employees to people’s homes for consulting, design or installation, but it is in the business of educating its customers.

“We try to help the customer with all the hardest decisions and hardest items to find or to assemble,” Markestad said. “From there, we kind of leave it all to them to put it together.”

Boys 50 yard freestyle

The unfolding of 'home-grown fascism' in Capitol assault


Under battle flags bearing Donald Trump’s name, the Capitol’s attackers pinned a bloodied police officer in a doorway, his twisted face and screams captured on video. They mortally wounded another officer with a blunt weapon and body-slammed a third over a railing into the crowd.

“Hang Mike Pence!” the insurrectionists chanted as they pressed inside, beating police with pipes. They demanded House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s whereabouts, too. They hunted any and all lawmakers: “Where are they?” Outside, makeshift gallows stood, complete with sturdy wooden steps and the noose. Guns and pipe bombs had been stashed in the vicinity.

Only days later is the extent of the danger from one of the darkest episodes in American democracy coming into focus. The sinister nature of the assault has become evident, betraying the crowd as a force determined to occupy the inner sanctums of Congress and run down leaders—Trump’s vice president and the Democratic House speaker among them.

This was not just a collection of Trump supporters with MAGA bling caught up in a wave.

That revelation came in real time to Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., who briefly took over proceedings in the House chamber as the mob closed in Wednesday and the speaker, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, was spirited to safer quarters moments before everything went haywire.

“I saw this crowd of people banging on that glass screaming,” he told The Associated Press on Sunday. “Looking at their faces, it occurred to me, these aren’t protesters. These are people who want to do harm.”

“What I saw in front of me,” he said, “was home-grown fascism that was out of control.”

Pelosi said Sunday “the evidence is that it was a well-planned, organized group with leadership and guidance and direction. And the direction was to go get people.” She did not elaborate on that point in a ”60 Minutes” interview on CBS.

The scenes of rage, violence and agony are so vast that the whole of it may still be beyond comprehension. But with countless smartphone videos emerging from the scene, much of it from gloating insurrectionists themselves, and more lawmakers recounting the chaos that was around them, contours of the uprising are increasingly coming into relief.

The staging

The mob got explicit marching orders from Trump and still more encouragement from the president’s men.

“Fight like hell,” Trump exhorted his partisans at the staging rally. “Let’s have trial by combat,” implored his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, whose attempt to throw out election results in trial by courtroom failed. It’s time to “start taking down names and kicking ass,” said Republican Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama.

Criminals pardoned by Trump, among them Roger Stone and Michael Flynn, came forward at rallies on the eve of the attack to tell the crowds they were fighting a battle between good and evil and they were on the side of good. On Capitol Hill, Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri gave a clenched-fist salute to the hordes outside the Capitol as he pulled up to press his challenge of the election results.

The crowd was pumped. Until a little after 2 p.m., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was at the helm for the final minutes of decorum in partnership with Pence, who was serving his ceremonial role presiding over the process.

Both men had backed Trump’s agenda and excused or ignored his provocations for four years, but now had no mechanism or will to subvert the election won by Biden. That placed them high among the insurrectionists’ targets, no different in the minds of the mob than the “socialists.”

“If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral,” McConnell told his chamber, not long before things spiraled out of control in what lawmakers call the “People’s House.”

The assault

Thousands had swarmed the Capitol. They charged into police and metal barricades outside the building, shoving and hitting officers in their way. The assault quickly pushed through the vastly outnumbered police line; officers ran down one man and pummeled him.

In the melee outside, near the structure built for Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration, a man threw a red fire extinguisher at the helmeted head of a police officer. Then he picked up a bullhorn and threw it at officers, too.

The identity of the officer could not immediately be confirmed. But Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who was wounded in the chaos, died the next night; officials say he had been hit in the head with a fire extinguisher.

Shortly after 2 p.m., Capitol Police sent an alert telling workers in a House office building to head to underground transportation tunnels that criss-cross the complex. Minutes later, Pence was taken from the Senate chamber to a secret location and police announced the lockdown of the Capitol. “You may move throughout the building(s) but stay away from exterior windows and doors,” said the email blast. “If you are outside, seek cover.”

At 2:15 p.m., the Senate recessed its Electoral College debate and a voice was heard over the chamber’s audio system: “The protesters are in the building.” The doors of the House chamber were barricaded and lawmakers inside it were told they might need to duck under their chairs or relocate to cloakrooms off the House floor because the mob had breached the Capitol Rotunda.

Even before the mob reached sealed doors of the House chamber, Capitol Police pulled Pelosi away from the podium, she told “60 Minutes.”

“I said, ‘No, I want to be here,’”she said. “And they said, ‘Well, no, you have to leave.’ I said, ‘No, I’m not leaving.’ They said, ‘No, you must leave.’” So she did.

At 2:44 p.m., as lawmakers inside the House chamber prepared to be evacuated, a gunshot was heard from right outside, in the Speaker’s Lobby on the other side of the barricaded doors. That’s when Ashli Babbit, wearing a Trump flag like a cape, was shot to death on camera as insurrectionists railed, her blood pooling on the white marble floor.

The Air Force veteran from California had climbed through a broken window into the Speaker’s Lobby before a police officer’s gunshot felled her.

Back in the House chamber, a woman in the balcony was seen and heard screaming. Why she was doing that only became clear later when video circulated. She was screaming a prayer.

Within about 10 minutes of the shooting, House lawmakers and staff members who had been cowering during the onslaught, terror etched into their faces, had been taken from the chamber and gallery to a secure room. The mob broke into Pelosi’s offices while members of her staff hid in one of the rooms of her suite.

“The staff went under the table barricaded the door, turned out the lights, and were silent in the dark,” she said. “Under the table for two and a half hours.”

On the Senate side, Capitol Police had circled the chamber and ordered all staff and reporters and any nearby senators into the chamber and locked it down. At one point about 200 people were inside; an officer armed with what appeared to be a semi-automatic weapon stood between McConnell and the Democratic leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer.

Authorities then ordered an evacuation and rushed everyone inside to a secure location, the Senate parliamentary staff scooping up the boxes holding the Electoral Collage certificates.

Although the Capitol’s attackers had been sent with Trump’s exhortation to fight, they appeared in some cases to be surprised that they had actually made it in. When they breached the abandoned Senate chamber, they milled around, rummaged through papers, sat at desks and took videos and pictures. One of them climbed to the dais and yelled, “Trump won that election!” Two others were photographed carrying flex cuffs typically used for mass arrests.

But outside the chamber, the mob’s hunt was still on for lawmakers. “Where are they?” people could be heard yelling.

That question could have also applied to reinforcements—where were they?

At about 5:30 p.m., once the National Guard had arrived to supplement the overwhelmed Capitol Police force, a full-on effort began to get the attackers out.

Heavily armed officers brought in as reinforcements started using tear gas in a coordinated fashion to get people moving toward the door, then combed the halls for stragglers. As darkness fell, they pushed the mob farther out onto the plaza and lawn, using officers in riot gear in full shields and clouds of tear gas, flash-bangs and percussion grenades.

At 7:23 p.m., officials announced that people hunkered down in two nearby congressional office buildings could leave “if anyone must.”

Within the hour, the Senate had resumed its work and the House followed, returning the People’s House to the control of the people’s representatives. Lawmakers affirmed Biden’s election victory early the next morning, shell-shocked by the catastrophic failure of security.

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Ca., told AP on Sunday it was as if Capitol Police “were naked” against the attackers. “It turns out it was the worst kind of non-security anybody could ever imagine.”

Said McGovern: “I was in such disbelief this could possibly happen. These domestic terrorists were in the People’s House, desecrating the People’s House, destroying the People’s House.”

Obituaries and death notices for Jan. 11, 2021

Patricia Ann Barkas

Edmond J. “Ed” Bielarczyk

Christina Sarah Bieser

Jimmie Marlin Collicott Sr.

Mina L. DeVoe

Florence M. Dobson

Marion Alice Farnsworth

Karen J. Nelson

Robert Herman Radtke

Rollin Lawrence “Rollie” Royce

Ronald L. Ruble

Austin M. Sbonik

Marian Doris Schmid

Evelyn Mae (Goehl) Wanninger

Patrick J. Welch Sr.

Arthur E. Whalen Jr.

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Rock County forms vaccine advisory group, requests $250,000 for COVID-19 needs

Rock County officials are asking the county board to approve a $250,000 budget amendment to cover costs associated with COVID-19 response and vaccine distribution.

The money would aid efforts from a recently formed vaccine advisory group, which is operating under the county’s emergency operations center, said Josh Smith, county administrator.

The advisory group includes representatives from all over the county, many of whom have been involved in the county’s emergency operations throughout most of the pandemic, Smith said.

Representatives from major health systems, charitable clinics, schools, communities and other organizations are included in the advisory group, Smith said.

The Gazette has asked Smith and county health department officials for a list of advisory group members. Smith said he asked health department officials to share that information, but The Gazette had not received a list of names as of press time.

The county’s board of health approved a proposed budget amendment allocating funds for COVID-19 response last week.

The amendment now has to be approved by the county board at its Thursday, Jan. 14, meeting, Smith said.

An executive summary provided to the board of health states finances are needed to manage the COVID-19 community testing site. Management of the site has been passed on to the county. It had been managed by the state when it first opened.

Staffing of the site includes county staff and volunteers as well as contracted workers from Professional Services Group, according to the summary.

The contract with Professional Services Group could cost up to $19,000, according to the summary.

The county is responsible for providing lunch, dinner and snacks for the National Guard members, staff and volunteers working the site, which will cost $47,000 through March 10. The county has contracted with Best Events for food services, according to the summary.

The vaccine advisory group, which started meeting in early January, has identified the need for manpower to handle vaccine coordination and administrative duties, according to the summary.

Alison Chouinard, health educator for the Rock County Public Health Department, has been assigned to be the county’s vaccine coordinator.

County officials, as part of the budget amendment, requested funds to add new staff or backfill positions, such as Chouinard’s, that might be left vacant as staff take on other duties, Smith said.

Smith in a note to the board of health said the county has “financial flexibility” to provide the $250,000 from its undesignated general fund balance.

The vaccine advisory group is working out logistics as to when and how frequently it will meet, Smith said.

The group will discuss all aspects of vaccine distribution including coordination, administration, distribution, communication to the public and creating fair and equitable access across the community, Smith said.

It is challenging to answer many of the community’s questions right now because even county officials don’t have a lot of necessary information.

County officials are preaching patience as plans continue to move forward, Smith said.