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JANESVILLE

A Forward Janesville poll shows almost three-quarters of the organization’s members support a Rock County masking order, and some said they would even consider closing their doors if the order was lifted.

But chamber of commerce officials said the poll was split widely enough between those who support and oppose the mandate that they believe county health officials should consider using local COVID-19 vaccination rates to help decide when masking rules might be lifted.

Rock County implemented a face covering order last week after the Republican-led state Legislature repealed Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide masking order.

Forward Janesville polled member businesses, and 73% said they support the county’s mandate, considering it a “reasonable way” to continue operating while keeping workers and customers safe, according to a news release from the organization.

About 26% voiced “strong reservations” over a continued masking requirement, the chamber said.

Dan Cunningham, who leads government relations at Forward Janesville, said he has never seen such a brisk response to a member survey. It generated responses from 300 members with about 80 written comments.

While most members supported masking remaining in place—and a few businesses even said they would consider closing to the public if the mandate was lifted—Cunningham said several members said they feel businesses should have the right to set their own rules on face coverings.

Cunningham said that has led the chamber to favor a less “open-ended” mandate on masking and a redoubled effort to encourage the public to get vaccinated.

The county’s masking rule would run through May, but it could be extended, according to the order.

The chamber is asking county health officials to make a twice-monthly review of COVID-19 data that could be available to the public—particularly data that would show hospitalization rates and what percentage of the public, elderly people and frontline workers in particular, has been vaccinated.

The chamber believes that such data could give the public and the business community better perspective on the state of public health and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As more of our population is vaccinated, we hope that Rock County’s caseload will continue to decline and that we can begin to put COVID-19 in our rearview mirror,” Cunningham said in a statement.

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