Rock Co. phased plan for reopening businesses begins Thursday

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ROCK COUNTY, Wis. (WMTV) - Rock County's phased plan to reopen businesses begins Thursday.

The first phase of the plan would have restaurants, retail stores, salons, and other businesses reopening with strict limitations on the number of customers they serve at a time. In many cases, the agency recommends they limit it to 25 percent of their normal capacity.

On Tuesday, the Rock County Public Health Department laid out the metrics it will use to determine when it is safe to move to a new phase and ease more restrictions. Health officials added their reopening plan was created with input from local businesses and community members.

“We understand that the Safer at Home order is causing economic hardship and we are working with the Rock County community to minimize the hardship while keeping the community as safe as possible,” the agency said in a statement detailing the program.

It did note that the entire plan is voluntary. Business owners and residents will have to implement the procedures themselves. The agency also recommends continuing with tele-work and tele-education whenever possible.

The Health Department pointed out that COVID-19 is still “actively spreading” through the county and hitting Beloit and communities of color, especially the Hispanic population, which despite only making up nine percent of Beloit’s total population, has accounted for nearly half the cases. In light of those numbers, the agency explicitly backed the measures taken by the Beloit City Council to address the particular challenges it faces.

Rock County had enacted its own Safer at Home-style guidelines the day after state Supreme Court Justices struck down the Evers Administration’s statewide order. The local directive mirrored the now-vacated state order. This program is designed to supplant it and will go into effect on Thursday, May 21, the health department explained.

The phased plan utilizes a dashboard, similar to the one Dane County introduced, that defines eleven criteria and sets progress levels for each one. Each level is color coded to indicate if they have been met. So far, five of the goals meet the end goal set by the Health Department, while six more have met second-tier goals. None of the objectives are rated as failing.

The final phase will remain in effect until in effect until widespread protections, such as a vaccine, are developed and made available.