A representative for the Rock County Public Health Department said various metrics related to COVID-19 locally were on “trends in the wrong direction” during a conference call with Forward Janesville members Tuesday.
Forward Janesville hosted officials from the health department, Janesville School District and SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital-Janesville to allow members to ask questions regarding the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The health department’s communicable disease supervisor Kelsey Cordova cautioned members that although case rates and hospitalization figures weren’t as high compared to totals seen last year, businesses should take precautions to encourage masking indoors and promote vaccinations.
“We are continuing to evaluate and monitor the data and we are encouraging wearing a mask while indoors in a public setting and vaccinations,” Cordova said. “It’s an ongoing evaluation process and something we look at every day.”
As of Aug. 19, the most recent day data was available, a total of 17 people in Rock County hospitals were receiving inpatient treatment for COVID-19, health department data shows. Since the pandemic began, Rock County has recorded 17,292 cases and 188 virus-related deaths.
When asked about which metrics the health department monitored when considering issuing new COVID-19-related guidance, Cordova said multiple factors are considered, from hospitalization rates to case rates per 100,000 residents and more.
“One of our most important trigger points is around hospitalizations and hospital bed availability,” Cordova said. “It’s a sliding scale. What we are seeing now are trends in the wrong direction. We are seeing an increasing number at a much faster rate.”
In a sign families were ready to return children to school this fall, Janesville School District Superintendent Steve Pophal said the district had a total of 301 students registered for online learning for the upcoming term, compared to 3,200 that were either virtual or on a hybrid learning model in 2020.
“It’s clear families recognize that the vast majority of the time the best learning environment is to come to in-person learning at school,” Pophal said.
Due to a rise in cases, Cordova said the health department was exploring options to potentially expand testing capacity in Rock County.
Cordova called the county’s vaccination completion rate of 49.9% of all residents “suboptimal.”
“It’s important we can continue to relay messages that vaccines are safe and they are working to keep people out of the hospital and preventing death from COVID-19,” Cordova said. “Vaccinations, masking while indoors and practicing good hygiene are all important things we can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
In terms of vaccine booster shots, Cordova said the health department was still waiting on federal guidance before proceeding with rollout of a third dose.
Those interested in getting the COVID-19 vaccine can do so by scheduling an appointment with their health care provider or by visiting rockcountyshot.com to find vaccine sites and availability.