Thumbs down to top 10 COVID-19 ranking. In just a matter of weeks, Rock County went from having a handful of COVID-19 cases to having the ninth-highest daily growth rate in the nation, according to data from The New York Times. Health officials note an increase in testing partly explains the growth rate, though many other communities not in the top 10 also have ramped up testing. Another factor is numerous cases linked to the Birds Eye food processing plant in Darien. The reality is, more people need to be taking precautions. Too many people still are out in public without masks, and, according to our most recent GazetteXtra.com poll, many people are ignoring social distancing guidelines. We can do better, Rock County.
Thumbs up to mask campaigns. The city of Janesville mailed postcards last week to Janesville residents encouraging them to wear masks in public. It was a timely reminder in wake of reports of Rock County's surging growth rate in COVID-19 cases. People who'd like to wear masks but don't know where to get one now have a new option, thanks to the city of Janesville and United Way Blackhawk Region. They ran out of masks during a curbside giveaway event last week but plan to replenish supplies for giveaways each Thursday in May at Traxler Park. The point of the masks is to prevent droplets from people's mouths from spreading. Health officials say the coronavirus is about twice as contagious as the flu, and even normal breathing can expose someone to the virus.
Thumbs up to progress on Badger Bounce Back benchmarks. The state is steadily moving closer to reopening the economy under the criteria provided by the Badger Bounce Back plan. The state already has achieved the necessary testing capacity, and it's getting closer to hiring the 1,000 contact tracers. They will interview people who test positive for COVID-19 to figure out how many others might have been exposed to the virus. The state Department of Public Health has so far trained 401 contact tracers and plans to continue filling positions in the coming weeks. Some critics of Evers' plan have dismissed the need for robust contact tracing, but the state cannot afford to walk blindly into reopening the economy. It needs to be able to contain any outbreaks.
Thumbs down to missing out on $25 million in federal funding. Blame a pokey Legislature for this one. The state will get federal funding to help pay for unemployment benefits, but it lost out on about $25 million because the Legislature didn’t act fast enough. It needed to waive in late March the state’s one-week waiting period for starting unemployment benefits, but it waited until mid-April to take action. As a result, the state lost out on federal funds during the gap created between the passage of state and federal bills, according to the state Department of Workforce Development. The Legislature preferred to take a wait-and-see approach, as in see the money bypass Wisconsin.