More Beloit residents have tested positive for the coronavirus than in any other Rock County municipality, but Janesville claims the higher mortality rate.
After months of back and forth between county and municipal leaders, the Rock County Public Health Department has started publishing community-specific data on its website for Janesville and Beloit.
The county’s remaining cities, villages and towns have been lumped together in a separate category.
Epidemiologist Nick Zupan said health department officials hope to offer data for smaller municipalities in the future.
Municipal data confirms the coronavirus has reached more Beloit residents.
As of Monday, Beloit had 200 more confirmed cases than Janesville: 484 and 284 cases, respectively. The rest of the county has 98 cases.
However, Janesville, has more than double Beloit’s COVID-19 mortality rate: 4.93% compared to Beloit’s 1.86%, according to the data.
Janesville Fire Chief Ernie Rhodes said the data supports evidence that Beloit residents with the virus have been younger and relatively more healthy compared to Janesville residents with the virus.
Janesville has seen several virus outbreaks in nursing homes. Elderly people and those with pre-existing health conditions are considered most at risk for serious complications from the disease.
Of the six Rock County nursing homes reported to have been investigated by the state Department of Health Services for outbreaks, three are in Janesville, two are in Beloit and one is in Evansville, according to state data.
The municipal data is updated weekly and does not reflect the most recent case totals.
As of Tuesday, Rock County reported 864 confirmed cases of the virus and one new death, bringing the county’s death toll to 24.
The state Department of Health Service’s data shows the 24th death happened Monday.
The health department started publishing municipal data after conversations with local leaders during the county’s phased reopening planning, said Zupan, the county epidemiologist.
Community leaders had expressed interest in being able to monitor local trends, he said.
However, Beloit and Janesville officials have asked the health department to provide more municipal-specific data since the early days of the pandemic.
Rock County Administrator Josh Smith said in April that sharing data threatened patients’ privacy and that the data did not represent the actual situation.
At the time, health department officials maintained that people should act like the virus is everywhere, regardless of what the data showed. But city leaders argued localized data would help officials track trends and make decisions.
Rhodes said he would have liked the data to come sooner, but he thinks Janesville can use what it now has to “keep an eye on things” and watch for surges and spikes.
The data did not reveal any shocking trends, Rhodes said.
The city continues to hold internal virtual conference calls to discuss data and track city resources, Rhodes said.
A public testing site, similar to the one held in Beloit in May, is still a possibility for Janesville, he said.
The increase in cases across the country in communities that have reopened indicate Janesville might need public testing at some point in the future, Rhodes said.
The municipal data has helped the health department identify trends in racial and ethnic communities, Zupan said. It shows Hispanic or Latino individuals account for more than half of Beloit’s cases, which Zupan said is linked to outbreaks at local manufacturing plants.
Janesville’s Hispanic community has been less affected, with only 21% of cases involving Hispanic or Latino individuals, according to the data.
That has prompted the health department to translate more materials and resources into Spanish and find ways to get that information to Spanish-speaking communities, Zupan said.
Rhodes said Janesville’s goals for preventing the spread of disease and maintaining city services have not changed.
Going into the holiday weekend, Zupan urged people to be cautious with traveling and avoid areas where cases of the disease are increasing, such as Texas and Florida.
Rhodes said people need to wear masks when in public and social distance from others.
“We gotta put everyone in a mask,” he said.