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A medical worker holds a vial of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine used to vaccinate health care workers at Mercyhealth Hospital and Trauma Center in Janesville.

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.

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