01STOCK_CORONAVIRUS01

JANESVILLE

Although it has only been a few days since the Rock County health department discontinued its reopening plan, the county’s epidemiologist said Thursday that COVID-19 figures continue to be quite low.

Epidemiologist Nick Zupan said they are seeing an average of four new cases per day, and the county hasn’t seen any “drastic” increases in hospitalizations since health officials gave their blessing for county businesses to “fully reopen” Tuesday.

“We continue to see very, very low numbers of new cases reported to the health department,” Zupan said during a press conference Thursday. “All signs are positive right now. We’ll continue to monitor the data and the case activity moving forward.”

Also Tuesday, a Janesville School Board member said the health department didn’t give clear guidance for what local schools should do going forward. The board decided Tuesday night to lift the district’s mask mandate.

“They’re frankly not here,” board member Elizabeth Paull said of the health department.

In response, Health Officer Katrina Harwood said the health department shares what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends for schools.

“We see that feedback we received in the article as an opportunity to improve communication with the school board,” she said. “But again, we are encouraging schools to continue to follow CDC guidance, which does encourage mask wearing and distancing.”

It does not appear that the Janesville schools policy change actively encourages masks, however. Rather, the board decided to allow students and staff to wear them if they want to.

The Milton School District also decided this week to make mask wearing optional for inside and outside starting July 3, according to a letter from the superintendent.

Judges from the Rock County Courthouse kept a reopening plan in place for the building, though they are hoping to lift a mask requirement and only encourage mask use for those who are not vaccinated.

Zupan on Thursday said 47.5% of the county population has had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and that 41% of the county population is fully vaccinated, meaning they are at least two weeks from their last required dose.

Those who are interested in finding places to get a vaccine should visit RockCountyShot.com.

Health officials during the press conference emphasized that although many have gotten their vaccines and some restrictions are being lifted, the pandemic has not ended.

They stressed that getting tested for COVID-19 is as important now as it has been for more than a year. Officials will keep watching the emerging data to see if trends turn negative.

“We are at a better place today due to the collective effort and action of people who live and work in Rock County,” Harwood said. “We must continue to remain diligent to ensure the progress continues.”

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