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Rock County is warning people to avoid most gatherings because of rapid increases in positive tests for the coronavirus and rising numbers of hospitalizations and deaths.

Rock County in October had more positive cases reported than all previous months of the pandemic combined, and 30% of all cases reported during the pandemic in the county have been in the past 16 days, according to the health department.

The department also reported 14 deaths from COVID-19 so far in November and a doubling of the number of people hospitalized for the disease since Nov. 1.

The warning comes as the Thanksgiving holiday and the gun-deer season approach, but the guidance says people should avoid gatherings of any size with anyone not living in the same household.

County Health Officer Marie-Noel Sandoval told WCLO Radio that officials are seeing outbreaks among people who attended small gatherings and thatpeople are wrong to think they are safe if they hold gatherings with family members they don’t live with.

The county Public Health Department on Monday said it was recommending more restrictions by shifting from Phase 2 to Phase 1 of its reopening plan.

As part of Phase 1, the department issued this guidance:

  • Everyone should avoid gatherings of any size with people who are not members of the same living unit or household.
  • Public and private gatherings, festivals, carnivals, fairs, concerts, parades, and contact/team sports should not take place.
  • Libraries, religious services, office settings, restaurants, bars, retail establishments, service establishments, community centers, shopping malls, auctions, gym/recreational facilities, pools and places of amusement should limit capacity to 25%.
  • Salons, body art facilities, pet groomers and spas should not allow walk-in clients.
  • Outdoor playgrounds and garage/rummage sales should be limited to 10 people or fewer.
  • Schools should provide virtual options and flexibility to shift to virtual school for a minimum of two weeks after any holiday or seasonal extended break.

Sandoval referred to the rules as “guidance” and “recommendations.”

There are 2,530 active and confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Rock County, up one from Sunday, according to data from the Rock County Public Health Department.

On Monday, 190 new cases were reported to the health department. The county hit a record for new cases Sunday with 306, according to the data.

Since March, 60 Rock County residents have died from the disease.

As of Saturday, 70 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Rock County hospitals, just shy of the county’s record of 72 hospitalizations, according to the data.

Of test results returned to the county Monday, 39% were positive.

Rock County’s COVID-19 data is as bad as it has been at any point in the pandemic across the board. Data shows trends are much worse than in April, when the state was mostly shut down.

The county started its reopening plan May 21 with Phase 1, according to the health department website.

The less restrictive Phase 2 went into effect July 10.

Phase 2 limited gatherings in stores, libraries and churches to 50% capacity. Phase 1 calls for 25%.

Phase 2 recommended virtual classes and protective measures when schools are open. Phase 1 says schools should provide virtual options and pivot to virtual schooling for a minimum of two weeks after any holiday or extended break.

Janesville Fire Chief Ernie Rhodes, who has led the city’s pandemic response, said city officials would meet Monday to review the health department’s recommendations and consider what responses, if any, the city should make.

Also Monday, Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., announced he was in quarantine because his 91-year-old mother, with whom he had been in masked contact, had tested positive for the virus.

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