JVG_200716_REOPEN

Kevin Propp looks through an assortment of face masks for sale while shopping at Dave’s Ace Hardware in Milton.

Ann Sitrick Joyce compares the process of navigating the pandemic to swimming upstream without knowing where the stream ends.

As co-chairwoman of the Rock Reopen Task Force, Joyce hopes her group can make the navigation process easier by bringing together leaders from 12 sectors of the community to gather feedback and collaborate on ways Rock County can move forward.

The task force was formed in early June to provide recommendations and opinions to county officials on reopening and recovering.

Since then, it has nearly finalized its sector leaders and is ready to begin surveying businesses and organizations about what they need to recover from months of closure and address COVID-19 safety concerns.

The pandemic became personal for Joyce when one of her two sons got sick with COVID-19. He has since recovered.

Joyce said she wanted to use her leadership experience and community connections to help the county. She spent 13 years as the director of the Beloit Health System Foundation and worked in the Beloit School District before that.

“Everybody has their own personal take, but to be able to bring factors together is really important,” she said.

She anticipates that people from around the county will share similar challenges and be able to help one another.

County Administrator Josh Smith said the task force was born because county officials needed a streamlined way to get community feedback.

The three task force co-chairs oversee groups representing 12 sectors of the community: chambers of commerce, consumer retail, diverse communities, education, entertainment, faith communities, food, government, hospitality, manufacturing, nonprofits and services.

Each group has eight to 12 members who meet separately and then report to the co-chairs.

The Rock County Public Health Department in turn shares data and information about COVID-19, which can be shared among task force members and the community.

Smith said feedback from the task force will be taken seriously because it represents the community’s thoughts and concerns.

Decisions on whether to move to another reopening phase or issue a public health order ultimately will be made by health officials, he said, but those decisions could be easier with the task force’s help.

If the county learns about needs in the community sooner, people might see positive changes more quickly, Smith said.

One of the task force’s first projects is a mask-wearing campaign to persuade businesses and individuals to wear masks in public to prevent the spread of the virus.

County officials believe convincing people that wearing masks is the right thing to do is better than enacting a mask ordinance, Smith said.

The task force can help the effort by getting more people and businesses on board, he said.

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