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Next vaccine phase opening early

COVID-19 vaccine scheduling processes likely will remain the same next week after thousands more people become eligible in Rock County, local health officials said.

Wisconsinites ages 16 and older with certain medical conditions will be eligible for the coronavirus vaccine starting Monday, a week earlier than previously announced, Gov. Tony Evers said Tuesday.

Qualifying conditions include moderate to severe asthma, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, Down syndrome, and being overweight with a body mass index of 25 or above. Pregnant women are also eligible.

Rock County residents can expect to see a new vaccine request form for people with medical conditions soon, said Jessica Turner, spokeswoman for the Rock County Public Health Department.

Overall, however, the process to schedule vaccine appointments will remain the same, Turner said.

Each vaccinator in the county has its own process and prioritization for scheduling appointments. Some have waiting lists; others take appointments on a rolling basis, and some offer appointments to specific groups or organizations.

It is likely some vaccinators will continue to prioritize vaccinations within the eligibility groups, meaning people who become eligible Monday might have to wait before being offered vaccine from certain vaccinators, Turner said.

The health department’s role is to ensure equitable distribution of vaccine and to communicate where and how the public can set up appointments, she said.

The health department is not offering vaccine doses and does not receive information about how many doses come into the county each week, Turner said. The state divvies up the doses and sends them directly to vaccinators.

Officials at SSM Health in Janesville did not expect Evers’ announcement and were still working out logistical details for the new eligibility group as of Tuesday afternoon, said Eric Thornton, president of SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital-Janesville.

SSM Health’s Dean Clinic in Janesville is booked for vaccine appointments through April 5. Any resident can join the health system’s online waiting list, said Erica Mathis, spokeswoman for SSM Health.

SSM Health patients are encouraged to continue monitoring their MyChart accounts for notifications to schedule vaccine appointments, Mathis said.

Mercyhealth is developing a system to make registration for vaccine appointments as seamless as possible for those in the upcoming eligibility group, according to a statement from Mercyhealth.

The full list of qualifying conditions is long, especially when including people who are deemed overweight because of their BMI.

BMI is used as a screening tool to discern a person’s weight in relation to height, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The measurement does not measure actual body fat and therefore can be misleading, especially for people with high muscle mass, according to the CDC.

To calculate your BMI, divide your weight in pounds by your height in inches squared, then multiply that number by 703, or use the CDC’s online BMI calculator.

The CDC says a person who is 6 feet tall is considered to have an overweight BMI at 184 pounds. Any 6-foot-tall person who weighs more than that is considered overweight or obese, and is therefore eligible for vaccine Monday.

A person who is 5 feet, 5 inches tall is considered overweight by BMI at 150 pounds, according to the CDC calculator.

State health officials last week said 60% to 65% of the state’s population will be eligible for vaccine Monday.

It is difficult to discern how many people in Rock County will become eligible for vaccine Monday, Turner said.

Data is available for what percentages of people have specific conditions, but it is hard to know how many people have one or more conditions simultaneously, Turner said.

The state also clarified Tuesday that all clergy are eligible now, as well as judges, prosecutors, public defenders and other essential criminal court personnel.

The public will become eligible May 1, and it’s possible that could happen sooner, Evers said during a virtual event hosted by Wisconsin Health News.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 34,470 Rock County residents have received at least one dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, and 124 residents have received the one-dose vaccine from Johnson & Johnson.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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Classic candy shop and soda fountain coming to downtown Janesville


When was the last time that a granddad and his grandkid could head to downtown Janesville and get a candy bar, jellybeans and a handmade ice cream float at a genuine soda fountain—all inside one storefront?

It’s been years, certainly.

In April, Courtney Perakis is bringing back a slice of old-timey sweetness with The Sugar Exchange, a new candy shop and classic ice cream and soda parlor at 119 N. Main St.

Perakis, a former financial adviser with a love of lemon-flavored Jolly Rancher candies and vivid memories of visiting candy stores with her grandfather, is revamping a shop space at the Bodacious Shops of Block 42 that will become a throwback candy shop.

When the Sugar Exchange opens, its walls of embossed wallpaper painted in vintage teal will be decked with racks of old-style sweets such as wax lips and candy necklaces, jelly beans, all surrounding a soda counter where Perakis will serve up handmade sodas and ice cream.

If that’s not enough wall-to-wall nostalgia, Perakis said the Sugar Exchange will have a full wall stocked with candy bars made all over the U.S.

Anthony Wahl 

Courtney Perakis tests out the location of the sign for a chocolate display inside her candy shop and soda counter under construction in Block 42 on North Main Street in downtown Janesville.

Last year, as the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, Perakis, a former financial advisor with Edward Jones, was contemplating a career change. Perakis also was mourning the death of her grandfather, who she said would take her on childhood trips from her hometown of Phoenix to visit the beach resort town of Rocky Point, Mexico—a place full of candy shops.

One night last summer, Perakis had a dream she was working in a candy shop in downtown Janesville. She awoke with the details fresh in her mind.

“It seemed vivid and real. I was running a candy shop, my own shop. It was a catalyst of years of me saying ‘How do we not have a candy shop or an ice cream parlor or anything like that downtown?’” Perakis said. “I had a vision that I wanted it to be old fashioned. I wanted it to be kind of an Old English style shop. And I just kind of started rolling with it.”

Perakis said the name of the shop, The Sugar Exchange, came to her as a mashup of her own experience in finance and her love of candy.

“There are exchanges for different things. Yeah. Yeah. It just kind of started. I was thinking about that realm. I was thinking about something classic, like the East India Trading Company, kind of old school stuff. And that’s where The Sugar Exchange kind of came from,” Perakis said.

Residents might remember Larry and Phyl’s, a long-running ice cream and soda shop on West Milwaukee Street that ran the last true soda counter in downtown Janesville. And at the Lappin-Hayes building on the corner of Milwaukee and Main streets, a Fannie May candy shop ran for years before moving to the former Janesville Mall.

Anthony Wahl 

Business owner Courtney Perakis works with Pete Tracey to install shelving inside what will be her new candy shop and soda counter named Sugar Exchange, located in Block 42 on North Main Street in downtown Janesville.

More recently, in the early 2000s, a specialty fudge shop, Fudglie’s, operated in downtown Janesville

But it has been decades since downtown Janesville has a full-scale candy shop with a soda fountain.

“It’s been 30 or maybe 40 years since anybody’s seen anything like this in downtown Janesville. Which is crazy, because you go to downtown Beloit, and they’ve got two candy shops within walking distance, a block of each other,” Perakis said.

Perakis believes that by spring locals who’ve limited their trips out of their home because of the pandemic will begin feeling more comfortable out in public.

She believes Janesville’s downtown has begun to cultivate enough new foot traffic that it can support a candy shop—particularly one with a nostalgic draw.

Anthony Wahl 

Business owner Courtney Perakis, right, works with Pete Tracey to install brass posts at one of the counters inside her new candy shop and soda counter named Sugar Exchange, located in Block 42 on North Main Street in downtown Janesville.

The shop will specialize in candy lovers’ staples such as Jelly Belly jelly beans, but Perakis said her wall of chocolate bars will feature candy bars from all over the country—most from little-known, craft candy makers. And the soda fountain will serve old-fashioned, house-mix cola with fruit syrups and Italian cream flavorings.

“I wanted to create a space in Janesville where when you come in, you’re transported to the old days. For adults, there’s all those old memories, all the nostalgia of when they were kids and their grandparents and parents took them to places like this,” Perakis said.

“For the next generation, we hope that this store can be the place where they say, ‘Remember when we were kids and we used to go to The Sugar Exchange?’”

Anthony Wahl 

Courtney Perakis removes a ladder from a front corner of her candy shop and soda counter that’s still under construction in Block 42 on North Main Street in downtown Janesville. Perakis hopes the greenery will make the corner a featured place with her store to take photographs.

Obituaries and death notices for March 17, 2021

Julie K. Bartle

Eugene E. Begolke Sr.

Lisa Bobzien

Andrew Manouso Condogeorge

Judith Ann Leconte

George James Lomax

Verna Lee (Andresen) Magee

Anastasia “Stella” (Zemanek) Protteau

Gordon James Ruppert

Susan M. Schole

The Rev. Gary L. Sisk

Duane A. Wehe

Janesville Craig’s Kadence Woods competes in the 100-yard freestyle during their meet at home against Janesville Parker/Evansville on Tuesday, March 16.

Homeless share struggle to find permanent homes

Jayme Probst says people don’t understand homelessness until it happens to them.

Jayme and his wife, Heidi Probst, understand it all too well now.

They and their friends—Heather Norman, her 4-year-old son, Malcolm Norman, and her brother Robert Young—are desperately trying to find rental housing together after a harrowing bout of homelessness during bone-chilling weather this winter.

Norman, Young and the Probsts lost their housing and were living in their vehicles before finally landing at the Redwood Motel, 3912 N. Hackbarth Road, Janesville.

At $275 a week, the Redwood was the cheapest motel they could find, and it’s draining their meager income. The four eventually hope to pool their resources, move in together and get on their feet again.

Dave Fogderud, pastor of the Overflowing Cup Total Life Center in Beloit, has been working to get them food and clothing. Fogderud said he is handling an increasing number of calls about the homeless.

“Our phone has become a hotline,” Fogderud said.

He, his wife, Diana, and other volunteers deliver food or clothing donated by churches and occasionally provide gas money or motel vouchers out of pocket. Fogderud said he needs more volunteers to help him deliver meals.

He said calls about the homeless started increasing a couple of months ago. He worked with one man who has a job but still sleeps outside. Many of the homeless people he meets are living in their vehicles, often with children in tow.

Norman said she became homeless after her disability benefits were interrupted when she was in the hospital with a brain tumor and got behind on her bills. She said she and her brother, who was making $9 an hour at the time, were evicted last June and moved into their van.

In January, they moved into a motel with Fogderud’s help. Norman said she knew Fogderud from doing open mic night karaoke and poetry at the Overflowing Cup in the early 2000s.

To afford the motel room, they had to sell their van, cutting off their lifeline to food and making job-hunting more challenging. Young eventually found a job at SSI Technologies in Janesville, relying on friends and the occasional Uber for rides.

Between Norman’s disability check of about $700 a month and her brother’s take-home pay of about $2,500, the two can pay for an affordable rental, but they can’t save up enough for a deposit and first and last month’s rent. They must pay $275 a week to the motel and pay for rides to get groceries and take Norman to the doctor.

“A trip to Walmart by Uber is $27,” Norman said.

Although the siblings have income, they said landlords tell them their rentals are full or they don’t want to rent to someone who has been evicted in the past year.

They are currently pursuing housing help through Community Action. Norman said she has met other homeless people, many of whom struggle to get necessities without a physical address.

“Light needs to be shed on the homeless in Rock County. Since the pandemic, there are so many more,” she said.

The Probsts are among the other homeless people who have crossed Norman’s path.

The couple were living with Heidi Probst’s mother until she moved out of state and they lost their housing.

The Probsts then moved into their van and were sleeping in Janesville’s Traxler Park. Police urged them to leave when they were caught using electricity.

The van eventually broke down, and they ended up at the Redwood Motel after a brief stay at another motel. They have food stamps and are eligible to use area pantries, but they don’t have transportation.

The Probsts say they are running short of clothing and aren’t sure where their next meal is coming from. They say they receive a combined $1,200 in disability benefits for mental health issues. Most of their income pays for the weekly motel fee, making it almost impossible to save enough to leave.

Despite their hardships, the Probsts, Norman and Young have formed a tight friendship and are trying to stay positive. Some landlords have told them there will be more openings for housing in spring.

They have hope that by banding together, and with support from Fogderud, they will one day have a home again.