FRI AM News: Safety4Her aims to provide the right clothing for women in the trades; WisBusiness: The Podcast features Buckley Brinkman, WCMP

— Safety4Her was founded by Melissa Gaglione, who saw a need and opportunity for women’s clothing in the towing and trucking industry.

With the trucking, towing and manufacturing industry employing more than 5 million women and a growth rate of 22 percent annually, she decided it was time for clothing that women in those industries would want to wear.

“I started my company, because I was a woman in the towing and trucking industry… and found that wherever I searched, there was nothing that fit me,” Gaglione said. “There are no small sizes and everything was made in one size.”

The existing market for safety wear is mostly for men and does not provide materials or fits that most women would find comfortable. A poor fit can cause women to face a higher risk of injury or death — think baggy clothing caught in machinery — which can also increase insurance risks.

In 2017 alone, Gaglione said, there were 250,000 accidents due to ill-fitting safety wear. Gaglione said she knows of some companies that sell pink safety wear, but much of it doesn’t comply with the American National Standards Institute, which establishes various safety standards.

She not only made her clothing compliant with ANSI, but comfortable. All her garments are inspired by typical yoga pants, as she got her start by simply sewing on reflective gear to her yoga pants and leggings. She eventually made her own designs for women of all sizes.

Read the full story at 

— This week’s episode of “WisBusiness: The Podcast” features Buckley Brinkman, executive director and CEO of the Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing and Productivity. 

WCMP collaborates with the UW Stout Manufacturing Outreach Center and the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership to help the state’s manufacturers grow their businesses and become more profitable by offering services and programs.

“What we’re doing now is helping manufacturers start to figure out how they’re going to  operate, safely, responsibly and effectively as we come out of this as a state and as a nation,” Buckley said.

Brinkman will also be a panelist at the 2020 Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference put on by the Wisconsin Technology Council on June 4. The virtual event will focus on COVID-19 economic survival, recovery and prosperity for young companies during a ‘new normal.’

He is bringing his broad perspective and connections with manufacturers across the nation, with knowledge on how cutting edge technology is implemented in manufacturing operations.

“Every time we come out of a downturn, the investment in technology actually speeds up rather than slows down,” said Brinkman. “The companies that are going to come out of this stronger are the ones that are already making plans and looking for new opportunities for their businesses to take advantage of as the economy recovers.”

Brinkman is looking forward to coming away with two or three ideas to put to use as well as two or three things that push him to think harder about what he’s doing. 

“I just think this is an exciting time for us, I think it’s going to be an opportunity for all of us to show what Wisconsin can do, both in terms of our ability to open responsibility but then also to take advantage of the new opportunities that are coming along in this new economy,” he said.

Listen to the podcast, sponsored by UW-Madison: 

— The state’s unemployment rate soared to 14.1 percent in April, reaching a level not seen since the Great Depression.

According to a release from the state Department of Workforce Development, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate in April was 0.6 percent lower than the national rate of 14.7 percent.

The massive increase comes after the state was experiencing near-record low unemployment rates, with 3.1 percent in early March. More than 385,000 private-sector jobs were lost over the course of a single month, according to DWD.

“The economy has taken a pretty severe hit in a very rapid manner,” said DWD Chief Economist Dennis Winters in a media briefing today.

He explained the state’s unemployment rate approached 10 percent in the Great Recession of 2008, just under the national rate at the time. Winters also said the state didn’t see current levels in a previous recession in the early 1980s.

“The closest is the Great Depression … when they figured the unemployment rate was around 25 percent,” he said, adding that the depression of the 1930s built up over the course of months and years. “This is a totally different phenomenon.”

In early April, DWD had projected the state’s unemployment rate could reach as high as 27 percent. But based on the most recent information, Winters said “the odds of that are less than 50 percent at this point.”

Since the unemployment statistics are delayed by several weeks, Winters said they likely won’t reflect the impact of the stay-at-home order and business restrictions being lifted until early July.

After peaking in early April, the number of initial unemployment applications in Wisconsin has since leveled off, according to the DWD website. But the daily totals are still in the thousands, and much higher than the same time last year. Between March 15 and May 16, DWD received 549,147 initial unemployment applications.

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce President & CEO Kurt Bauer said a prolonged shutdown due to COVID-19 “would likely be a much greater threat to the state than the virus itself.”

“Now is the time to return to the policies that delivered the strongest economy, lowest unemployment and largest budget reserves in Wisconsin history,” he said. “Wisconsin must reduce taxes, cut job-strangling red tape, and enact liability reforms that protect employers from costly and frivolous lawsuits.”

See the release:

See the latest unemployment application numbers:

See the WMC statement:

— Gov. Tony Evers says the state will dedicate $100 million from the federal CARES Act to help long-term care providers, emergency medical services, and home and community-based services.

The money is the latest chunk of the federal funding that Evers has rolled out to help various industries impacted by COVID-19. He’s now announced plans for more than $1.4 billion of the nearly $1.9 billion sent to the state.

The $100 million will be doled out in two parts. The initial phase will support immediate needs with a second release the administration says will be more targeted to additional needs of providers. In both cases, the money will support expenses directly related to COVID-19 and unexpected costs such as overtime and changes to sanitation procedures.

On a call with reporters today, Evers said the state will use how much Medicaid funding applicants receive as a basis to help divvy up the $100 million.

Evers acknowledged needs outstrip the amount of money being made available, noting he had earlier called for state money to help the facilities. But Republican lawmakers rejected his legislation that included the money.

“Certainly, we will look at it,” Evers said of additional state funding. “But we also want to use as many resources as possible from the federal government.”

Earlier today, Assembly Minority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauha, chided Evers in a letter for not providing money to long-term care facilities.

Following the announcement, Steineke said the money was “better than nothing.” Steineke added he heard frustrations from those in the long-term care industry that they hadn’t been consulted by Evers and said providing state money isn’t an option because “Wisconsin is fundamentally broke.”

“While it’s a significant amount of money, in the long run it’s going to fall well short of what the needs are,” Steineke said.

See the release:

Read Steineke’s letter:

— A professor in the UW-Madison Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, David O’Connor, is working to develop a COVID-19 test to be used in institutions such as nursing homes or large workplaces.

O’Connor was a panelist in the Wisconsin Alumni and Research Foundation’s third COVID-19 edition of its event series “Crossroads of Ideas” titled “Where do we go from here?” 

He is “anticipating federal guidelines are going to change” on patients needing to be symptomatic for a test, as his lab is aiming for this test to be used for pre-symptomatic people. 

He is working with Profs. Dave Beebe and Tom Friedrich to develop a colorimetric test for the virus, SARS-CoV-2 that causes the disease, COVID-19. O’Connor said that one of the testing limitations right now is that it needs to take place in “centralized labs” with “fancy equipment.” But in this rapid test, a swab sample that has the virus’s nucleic acid or RNA would cause the material in a tube to turn yellow; if not, pink. 

“We imagine that a truly rapid test would need to be deployed to nursing homes,” said O’Connor, noting that there are 15,000 nursing homes in the nation. “You can imagine having a device that can be deployed at nursing homes, at any nursing home that has ongoing cases, it could be, having their people tested every day.”

Deployment of the test would depend on a pending grant with RADx, a government program that’s designed to accelerate the development and deployment of tests like this, according to O’Connor.

If it gets funded, RADx will do rapid development over about a four-week period to see if it would be feasible for commercialization on a scale of millions of tests per week. If so, they aim to have it available by the end of the summer — “highly ambitious, especially from where we are now,” he said.

Looking ahead, O’Connor doesn’t know how COVID-19 will behave in the winter. 

“A lot of people who believe they were infected last winter, were infected with something else, possibly influenza B, possibly something else,” he said adding that probably only 1 percent of people in Dane County had it last winter, and they would have been classified at a higher than average risk level.

“With most people having not been infected, certainly around here, it’s going to be an open question what happens next winter.”

Also in O’Connor’s Laboratory, investigators lead CoVen, an international collaboration developing COVID-19 animal models to test vaccines and treatments. The group has also been responsible for sequencing SARS-CoV-2 genomes from cases throughout Dane and Milwaukee Counties to understand how these viruses are moving through Wisconsin. 

— Gentueri Inc. contributes 55,000 COVID-19 testing kits a week to the state’s lab capacity and is developing new testing kits that can be used in the workplace.

Gentueri’s main business is working with laboratories to improve result quality and lab efficiency by advancing collection, preservation and processing of biological samples with kits. They make sexual assault kits for the Wisconsin Crime Lab, collection kits and genetic testing kits. 

In mid-March, after predicting a slowdown in business, Nagy decided to expand Gentueri from four employees to 25 and pivoted to produce COVID-19 testing kits that include the nasal swabs and Viral Transport Media — material that keeps the virus alive in the sample for the lab — for local laboratories.

“We realized that there was a shortage of the kits out there, and the fact that we’re a biological sample collection company we figured we have the expertise to make these,” said Randy Nagy, president and CEO of Gentueri. 

After a call to the state hygiene laboratory, company officials sourced the materials they would need for the kits, purchased a machine to make the kits and started producing the kits. They’ve since expanded to help other states in need: Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, Nebraska, Michigan and Kansas.

According to Nagy, what employers are looking for now is a way to test their employees to make them feel safe. With expertise in sample collection, Gentueri is developing a CollectEject Swab Kit that uses an oral sample rather than the long thin swab taken high up in the nasal cavity. 

This allows an individual to easily collect a sample themselves and send it to a lab for automated processing, said Nagy.

“We see a big opportunity there and that will go until there is a vaccine available,” he said. “This pivot has given us exposure to the genetic testing world. We can help the community and the laboratories with their immediate problem. We’re not only doing it ourselves, but helping other companies in the end to provide their services as well.”

— DHS is conducting 376 facility-wide investigations across the state, 77 more than last week. 

Long-term care facilities account for 165 of them, followed closely by 148 non-health care workplace investigations.

Long-term care facilities in the state are reporting 205 deaths due to COVID-19, making up 42 percent of total deaths in Wisconsin due to the virus. 

These include nursing homes and assisted living facilities, such as community-based residential facilities and residential care apartment complexes. 

Thirty-two of the investigations are in group housing facilities including correctional facilities, homeless shelters, dormitories and group homes that have identified 21 COVID-19 deaths, or 4 percent of the state’s total. 

One hundred and twenty-nine of the state’s COVID-19 deaths were not linked to group housing facilities, but 132 deaths are categorized as “unknown,” meaning they may or may not have occurred at these facilities. 

According to DHS, the unknown category exists because relevant information has only been collected since April 8. 

About 18 percent of confirmed COVID-19 patients who have died in the state were over 90 years old, while another 24 percent were between 80 and 89 years old. Another 28 percent were between 70 and 79, and 16 percent were between 60 and 69. 

DHS is also conducting investigations in healthcare facilities (17) and “other settings” (14).

A majority of the investigations are taking place in Milwaukee (69) and Brown (60) counties.

Click here to see the facilities under investigation and a breakdown by county: 

— All 72 counties in Wisconsin have at least one confirmed case of COVID-19 after Langlade and Taylor counties had a case overnight. 

DHS reports the state’s COVID-19 death toll at 487 — up six from the last count.

The state’s number of confirmed cases also rose since the previous count — by 472 — bringing the cumulative case count to 13,885. The positive tests results account for 5 percent of the total tests received Thursday, “which is a good percentage,” DHS Secretary Andrea Palm said in a briefing.

An estimated 58 percent have recovered from COVID-19, while 4 percent of patients have died. Thirty-nine percent are still in a 30-day waiting period of symptom onset or diagnosis.

Counties reporting deaths include: Milwaukee (269), Brown (29), Dane (26), Waukesha (24), Kenosha (21), Racine (20), Rock (14), Ozaukee (11), Walworth (11), Grant (10), Outagamie (5), Clark (4), Fond du Lac (4), Richland (4) and Washington (4).

Door, Richland, Sauk and Sheboygan counties report three deaths each. Jefferson and Marinette counties report two deaths each.

Adams, Bayfield, Buffalo, Burnett, Calumet, Columbia, Dodge, Iron, Jackson, Juneau, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Marathon, Marquette, Monroe, Polk, Waupaca and Winnebago counties report one death each.

— Hospitalizations in the state are up.

Of the state’s 13,885 confirmed cases, 16 percent have been hospitalized and 4 percent have received intensive care, according to DHS. 

And the Wisconsin Hospital Association’s hospital dashboard reports 398 COVID patients in hospitals statewide, up five patients from Wednesday and 46 more than a week ago. WHA’s statewide patient data shows an upward trend in hospitalized patients since May 6.

DHS Secretary Andrea Palm said it’s “safe to say” the uptick in hospitalizations right now is not a result of the end of the state’s stay-at-home order. 

This is because hospitalization lag time is longer than the testing lag time and hospitalization isn’t required until a patient has been infected for a while and symptoms get bad, usually three to five weeks post infection, according to Palm.

DHS reports that 292 of the total COVID patients are in southeastern Wisconsin, which has also seen an increase in hospitalizations since May 6.

“It is why we have built and worked on this surge capacity, not only at the regional level with hospital systems across the state, but also through our alternative care facility in Milwaukee and the one that we have started here in Dane that we would be able stand up quickly if we needed to,” Palm said. 

— The state is slowly moving up to reach its capacity of 14,140 tests per day after a total of 9,365 came back Thursday, the most of any day. 

“If you’re experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19, please get a test,” Palm said. 

Click here for more coronavirus resources and updates:

— As White House officials reportedly pressure the CDC to raise the bar for how states count COVID-19 deaths, the state Department of Health Services says it’s only including cases that had a positive test and for which the virus caused the patient to die. 

“If they tested positive for COVID-19 by a confirmatory test (for example, a PCR test that detects the virus causing COVID-19, not an antibody test), and COVID-19 is listed among the primary causes of death or among contributing causes of death, they are counted as a COVID-19-associated death,” said Elizabeth Goodsitt, a spokesperson for DHS. 

According to a report from the Daily Beast, members of the president’s coronavirus task force have been seeking changes to the tallying process that would likely lead to fewer deaths being reported. The report cites five unnamed CDC officials and says President Trump has used hypotheticals in which someone who has the virus dies from an unrelated cause such as falling down the stairs, and is still counted as a COVID-19 death. 

Other states are using varying methods to calculate the total death toll attributed to the virus, a report from the Washington Post shows. But in Wisconsin, health officials only count it as a COVID-19 death if the disease is listed among the primary causes of death or contributing causes of death. 

Goodsitt said if health officials have reason to believe a death wasn’t linked to COVID-19 at all, based on the assessment of a medical provider or medical examiner, then it’s not counted in the state’s tally of virus deaths. 

“For example, if a patient died from an overdose or a car accident, and they were not ill, or there was evidence that their illness did not contribute to their death, they are not counted as a COVID-19-associated death, even if COVID-19 is detected,” Goodsitt said in an email. 

See more in Top Stories below.


# Medical College CEO: Wisconsin has landmark day in testing Covid-19

# CEO of nursing homes: ‘We are at the center of this storm. we need help’



– Wisconsin State Fair considering changes for pandemic – when we’ll know if it happens at all

– Wisconsin farmers to receive $50M from federal COVID-19 aid

– April milk production exactly the same as last year


– State’s unemployment rate more than quadruples; 385,900 private sector jobs lost


– Nimble Therapeutics working on diagnostics of virus that causes Covid-19


– Linda Newberry-Ferguson named CEO of Village at Manor Park


– Baldwin co-sponsors Farming Support to States Act


– Rite-Hite’s plans for Reed Street Yards showroom to grow


– Questions linger about when Dane County will allow full reopening; UW bans large gatherings

– Some state help for cities, counties leading Wisconsin’s COVID-19 response


– Neroli Salon & Spa aims to balance high demand with new safety protocols

– Kohl’s to reopen most Wisconsin stores Friday

– Kohl’s to reopen Wisconsin stores. Here’s what to expect


– Tourism destination Door County releases new guidelines for Covid-19 recovery and reopening


– Viewpoints: Bringing sanity to reopening the U.S. economy and businesses safely


<i>See these and other press releases: </i>