JVG_200904_COVID

Members of the Wisconsin National Guard help with COVID-19 testing at a drive-thru site at Krueger Park in Beloit.

As COVID-19 numbers in Rock County begin climbing again, a spokeswoman for the Rock County Public Health Department has echoed the sentiment shared each time data trends change.

“It is hard to draw any definite conclusions,” spokeswoman Jessica Turner said.

The health department has had a similar response each time The Gazette has asked why numbers might be trending positively or negatively.

This time around, Rock County’s COVID-19 data is trending negatively.

The number of new COVID-19 cases reported daily has been greater than 14 each day over the last week, with the exception of Sunday, when no new cases were reported, which often happens on Sundays.

Hospitalizations have been in the double digits over the last week, hovering between 10 and 12 after weeks of hospitalizations in the single digits.

There are 221 active and confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Rock County, up from 145 two weeks ago.

There have been 1,735 total cases in Rock County and 26 people have died, according to the data.

As of Tuesday, 12 people were hospitalized.

Turner suspects noncompliance with safety precautions such as mask wearing and social distancing could be contributing to increases.

Many people are experiencing COVID-19 fatigue and want to return to normal life, leading them to relax on some precautionary measures, Turner said.

It is hard to pinpoint where some cases originate because of discrepancies in contact tracing information and the choice by some people to not share information with tracers, Turner said.

The county is using county and state contact tracers to monitor disease spread. State tracers sometimes do not fill out fields in the contact tracing survey completely, leading to inconsistencies, Turner said.

Some people choose not to share their social whereabouts with tracers, Turner said.

Turner said the health department has not seen outbreaks at specific events or facilities to cause the increases, however, Cedar Crest nursing home in a news release last week said five residents and 13 employees had tested positive.

A state Department of Health Services dashboard shows there are active COVID-19 investigations in Rock County at 12 workplaces, four long-term care facilities, one educational facility, one group housing facility and five “other” facilities.

It is unclear from the dashboard when investigations were launched and when positive results were received.

The state has chosen not to identify facilities with investigations with the exception of nursing homes.

The state dashboard shows Alden Meadow Park in Beloit, Oak Park Place in Janesville and Rock Haven in Janesville as nursing homes with active investigations.

Turner in an email to The Gazette said that unless there is a specific need to make the public aware, it is left to individual businesses to decide whether to announce if an outbreak has happened at a facility.

“We (the health department) do not want to create a negative stigma surrounding any particular workplace,” Turner said. “Our public health nurses and contact tracers are in communication with those who are impacted directly.”

Not every business has to close if they report a positive case, Turner said.

The health department works with businesses when cases pop up, and some businesses are able to remain open if they have the resources to clean, social distance and enforce mask wearing, Turner said.

The health department continues to recommend its phase 2 reopening guidelines, which say businesses should open at 50% capacity and private gatherings should include 25 or fewer people.

But the reopening guidelines are strong suggestions and cannot be enforced by law.

The county is monitoring a set of benchmarks to drive its recommendations for reopening.

Four of 11 benchmarks are not currently met.

Some local businesses have chosen to ease up on safety precautions, Turner said, but most businesses are choosing to protect their staff and customers.

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