FRI AM News: UnityPoint Health Meriter restricted by COVID community spread; WisBusiness: The Podcast features Tom Still, Wisconsin Technology Council

— Community spread of COVID-19 has restricted UnityPoint Health Meriter Hospital’s capabilities, according to President and CEO Sue Erickson.

Additional sick calls and staff staying home to monitor potential COVID-19 symptoms have forced Meriter to adjust some of its operations. The hospital is rescheduling elective surgeries that require overnight stays in order to reserve beds for COVID-19 patients, Erickson said.

Erickson updated Madison business leaders on the hospital’s status during a virtual Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce briefing.

“The majority of us don’t want to shut back down,” she said, describing contingency plans, including delaying surgeries, as a method to prevent maxing out the hospital’s capacity and having to stop non COVID-19 procedures.

She noted a “significant increase” in COVID-19 patients admitted to Meriter. More than one-third of the hospital’s beds are occupied by patients with the virus. While the majority of these patients are arriving from Dane County, 40 percent are arriving from surrounding counties. 

Rural communities with rising coronavirus cases and backed-up hospitals could be the reason behind those numbers, Erickson said. 

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— This week’s “WisBusiness: The Podcast” features a preview of what’s to come at next week’s 2020 Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium hosted by the Wisconsin Technology Council.

Tech Council President Tom Still says speakers at the event represent current trends that young companies can learn from. This year the topics range from health care to biotechnology and manufacturing to marketing. 

“I’m excited to hear from our keynote speaker Jon Jacques who has worked with companies from Fortune 500 to mom and pop to help them with their social media. I think he’ll be valuable,” he said. “I’m excited to hear really from all of our speakers and panelists because  they will carry out those themes that I mentioned.”

The virtual symposium starts Monday afternoon and goes through the end of the day Wednesday. 

The heart of the event, Still said, is matching investors with young companies. The symposium will feature 511 one-on-one, speed-date-like meetings, seven companies competing in the Elevator Pitch Olympics and 20 companies with pre-recorded pitches to investors.

“We’ve seen good results with companies that got their start by attracting investors through that conference itself,” he said. “It could take six months, it could take a year, but it could be the next day as well.”

Register for the Early Stage Symposium: 

Listen to the podcast, sponsored by UW-Madison: 

— The state Department of Tourism is focusing on outdoor recreation and road trips for its fall tourism campaign.

The coronavirus pandemic has taken its toll on Wisconsin’s tourism industry as businesses such as restaurants, theaters and amusement parks had to be shut down or are still under limitations. 

But Tourism Secretary Sara Meaney said she sees the pandemic as an opportunity for the state to focus on outdoor endeavors and getaways within driving distance to bolster the industry and supporting industries while limiting physical contact.

Meaney wore a mask throughout yesterday’s virtual 2020 Wisconsin Fall Tourism Conference and her presentation in order to emphasize the important role leaders play in keeping the state healthy, she said. 

“I am in my home, and I am by myself in this room,” she said. “But I’m going to continue reinforcing the importance that we have leaders who do whatever we can to remind people that in order for this tourism industry to rebound, we also really need to curb the COVID-19 spread.”

COVID-19 threw a wrench in what could have been another record year for Wisconsin tourism — 2019 was the state’s best year on record — but Meaney assured Wisconsin tourism is on the right path.

She said the state can continue to bolster the industry by building the Wisconsin tourism brand through promoting the state’s outdoor activities like hiking, watersports, fishing, camping and road trips.

Wisconsin can capitalize on road trips this year by promoting its own unique system of historic roads. Meaney explained that in turn would bolster the hospitality industry  and a plethora of outdoor recreational markets, such as live event venues and arts and culture businesses.

Increasing public awareness of Wisconsin’s tourism attractions can lead to a more positive opinion of the state overall, she continued. 

“The more awareness that we build based on the messaging of tourism, the more positive impact we see upon these economic drivers,” Meaney said. 

— A panel of employment leaders agree that onboarding employees and building strong relationships are both more challenging and more important in the COVID-19 age.

“Generally, employees leave their managers, not necessarily a company,” said Michelle Nettles, chief people and culture officer at ManpowerGroup. “This is where I think it’s very important that a manager is engaging at a high level.”

Nettles said she and other managers and leaders have sent personal care packages to employees to add an additional touch in a virtual work environment. She added that managers, through technology, are going to have to be increasingly more engaged without outsourcing the responsibility to human resources.

Tori Termaat, head of human resources at Harley-Davidson, noted that engagement with new employees is a new responsibility for some leaders. But it’s a critical one. 

Both she and Nettles were panelists in a virtual Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce briefing earlier this week.

Termaat added that it’s something Harley-Davidson is working on because the company has been growing through a number of recent changes. The Milwaukee-based motorcycle brand hired a new CEO in March, has faced sales declines and has begun venturing into new partnerships and product spaces, such as electric transportation.

Termaat echoed Nettles that as much as leaders want to say people are leaving because they don’t make enough, it’s typically because of their manager.

“There is absolutely a risk there where people don’t feel as engaged, but we have to figure out how to make them feel engaged,” she said.

When it comes to assimilating employees, she said the company has had to be more deliberate about engagement, including meeting with new employees virtually more regularly than they would in the office. 

“We would do that new employee orientation monthly or quarterly, and now we have to do it weekly because that’s absolutely something that people are missing out on is onboarding into an organization and not actually seeing anyone,” Termaat said. “But it’s preparing us for as we move into the future, allowing us to hire in other cities.” 

Nettles added that hiring outside of the normal locations is a potential benefit. 

“As a global company, onboarding new people virtually, you can actually touch more cultures, touch more people, so there’s a slight benefit there.” 

— Wisconsin’s chief health officer announced her registration effective Nov. 11 as the state reports consecutive record case counts and hospitalizations.

In a letter to local health departments yesterday, Interim Division of Public Health Administrator Stephanie Smiley wrote that her work has been difficult. She said she accepted a position outside state service in order to focus on her own health.

Smiley is the second state health officer to resign in the last six months.

Wisconsin reported a near-record 5,922 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, just under the previous record of 5,935 reported Wednesday. 

Yesterday’s new cases bring the seven-day average of daily confirmed cases to a record 4,989, according to the Department of Health Services’ coronavirus dashboard.

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Wisconsin are at a record 1,747, and intensive care patients number a record 360 as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the Wisconsin Hospital Association’s hospital dashboard.

Wisconsin reported 38 new deaths among confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the state’s death toll to 2,194 and the seven-day average to 35 deaths per day. One month ago, the average was 14 deaths per day.

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# University of Wisconsin enrollment drops nearly 2% 

# More Than 3K Mink Dead From Coronavirus At Taylor County Mink Farm

# Wisconsin Senate Republicans choose Devin LeMahieu as their new majority leader

# Wisconsin chief health officer quits as COVID-19 rages  



– Water Sub-Cabinet members tour Wisconsin farms 

– Class III Milk Price Jumps to $21.61 for October 


– Colleges wrestle with deeper budget cuts as tuition revenue continues to fall 

– UW-Madison’s Meat Science and Animal Biologics Discovery Building Opens Friday 


– Federal judge orders release of detailed information about PPP loans 

– Lost Wages Assistance program benefits start to trickle to Wisconsin’s unemployed 


– SHINE Medical in Janesville begins selling therapeutics used to treat cancers 


– Feaster focused on equity as new Professional Dimensions CEO 


– Harley-Davidson ends its Summerfest sponsorship 


– Second rally at Capitol calls for every vote to be counted before declaring presidential winner

– False claims of Wisconsin voter fraud rely on wrong numbers

– Misinformation Is Spreading About Wisconsin’s Election. Here Are The Facts.

– Evers says state is ready to accommodate a recount


– Tim Casey has plenty of work as he starts as Kenosha’s new development director 

– New buyer steps up with plans to restore West Allis factory as event space 


– Kroger falling short of rivals in attracting customers, analyst says 


– UWM, UW-Green Bay basketball won’t host fans in December 


– Milwaukee hotel occupancy declines for another consecutive week 

– Visit Milwaukee looks to bookings in future years 


– Focus on Energy Unveils New Virtual Wisconsin Roadmap Highlighting Energy Efficiency Successes 


— InsideWis: Wisconsin captured national eye in election; can it do so now with COVID fight? 


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