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Funding for 19 new hires sought by Public Health Madison and Dane County
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Funding for 19 new hires sought by Public Health Madison and Dane County

Man wearing mask

With COVID-19 cases surging, Dane County again will be under an indoor mask mandate starting Thursday under a new order issued by Public Health Madison and Dane County.

Public Health Madison and Dane County is seeking to use $5.8 million in federal and state grants to hire 19 new positions, the department said in a statement.

Milfred and Hands love Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway's commitment to improving public transit in Madison. A faster and modern bus system is long overdue. But those long, snazzy "bus rapid transit" vehicles that she's bring to Madison -- with $80 million of help from the federal government -- don't need to rumble up and down State Street, the city's premier shopping and entertainment district. Instead, Madison's signature street should become a grand promenade for outdoor cafes, public art, trees and music. The buses can stop nearby and still get people where they need to go. On this week's episode of "Center Stage, with Milfred and Hands," our political podcasters discuss the State Journal editorial board's meeting with the mayor last week and play audio clips of Rhodes-Conway's objections to a true pedestrian mall on State Street, which Downtown businesses and advocates have sought.

The new hires requested by the public health department range from a COVID-19 vaccination supervisor to project management specialists, sanitarians and a bilingual health education coordinator. County and city officials will have to approve funding for the hires, though Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway have lent support to the new positions.

“The long term nature of this virus is taking a toll not only on health care workers in our hospitals but also our Public Health professionals,” Parisi said a statement. “To all of our chagrin, COVID-19 is here for the long haul. For the health and well-being of our community it’s imperative we have the resources needed for the work that’s still to come.”

Funding for the positions will last through the end of 2024, paid for using grants for government responses to the pandemic and boosting public health infrastructure, the department said. Some positions will handle public health programming beyond COVID-19, including emergency preparedness, environmental health and data communications.

“Our department has been responding to the COVID-19 pandemic for over a year and a half and the pandemic is not going away anytime soon,” Janel Heinrich, director of Public Health Madison and Dane County, said in a statement. “These new, multi-year positions are needed immediately to sustain the response over the near, to mid-term, while also maintaining the ‘normal’ high level of programmatic services.”

A resolution for funding the new hires will be introduced at the County Board's meeting on Thursday. A companion resolution will be introduced to the Madison City Council on Sept. 21.

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