MON AM News: Doubling rate for COVID-19 cases showing ‘remarkable progress’; Food Fight drastically cutting workforce

— Numbers from the Medical College of Wisconsin show the state’s doubling rate has improved to 9.3 days — “remarkable progress,” according Dr. John Raymond, president and CEO of MCW.

He noted the daily doubling rate was less than three days when the college started measuring about three weeks ago.

MCW’s numbers also show Wisconsin hospitals “have adequate and sufficient capacity” of hospital beds, ICU beds and ventilators.

“We have not overwhelmed the hospitals,” Raymond said Friday in a webinar put on by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. But the state still does not have adequate testing, personal protective equipment or contact tracing.

Raymond said that whether or not the testing, PPE and tracing goals are achieved isn’t a sure yes or no for reopening the state. MCW keeps track of those for decision makers, and he said that likely, a decision will have to be made before those three factors are sufficient.

When asked if reopening the state is a one-size-fits all solution, Raymond said “maybe we can open up regionally.” However, he noted that in this highly mobile society, it only takes one person to travel to an open region of the state to spread COVID-19 throughout that community. 

The top-line numbers on coronavirus cases in the state show “a leveling-off and possibly the beginnings of a decline,” according to Raymond.  

“But I caution everyone that we still have a significant number of new cases every day, and because our hospitalization rate runs at about 30 percent, that 170 new cases translates into about 50 new hospitalizations in the state,” he said. 

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— Food Fight Restaurant Group, a Madison-based company and one of Dane County’s largest employers, has gone from over 1,000 employees to about 150 as a result of Wisconsin’s stay-at-home order. 

“It was a bit scary and devastating to go from operating 19 businesses at full throttle one day and then the next losing 90 percent of sales and needing to make gut-wrenching choices to save your business,” said Food Fight’s Vice President Greg Frank during a webinar hosted by the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce.

Food Fight reworked its business model overnight after Gov. Tony Evers’ “Safer at Home” order to restructure fixed costs such as layoffs.

“We had to furlough over 900 people — that was heartbreaking,” said Frank.

Twelve of 19 of Food Fight’s businesses remain open, but it meant reducing menu items, limiting purchasing and creating social distance in kitchens in addition to other safety measures.

“We’ve gone to 100 percent delivery or curbside pickup,” said Frank before noting other innovations that Food Fight came up with such as family meals and take-and-bake options to increase sales. “We have gone from 90 percent decrease in sales to only a 75 decrease in sales, so I think that’s a win at this point.”

Food Fight is working with the Wisconsin Restaurant Association and National Restaurant Association to come up with guidelines for a reopening plan.

As far as what dining might look like at Food Fight restaurants when Wisconsin exits its stay-at-home order, “we’re assuming there is going to be restrictions on the capacity of the restaurants,” said Frank. 

“We also realize that people are going to be nervous coming back… so we can’t overdo things, so whatever the limitations are, we’ll make sure that we’re very conservative in even those limitations because we want to make sure we provide a comfortable environment.” 

— U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin says a “COVID 3.5” relief package could pass soon. 

National lawmakers are dispersed around the country, and Baldwin said they are trying to figure out a way to “fix and refund” the SBA programs, hospital funds and state and local funds that have already passed. 

“I think we can do that if we work really really hard through unanimous consent,” she said Friday in a webinar put on by the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce. “I’m hopeful that ..

we can reach a point where we can pass something before we reconvene.”

In a letter to federal officials, Baldwin requested items to be included in “COVID 3.5” including loans tailored to small businesses, forgiveness extended beyond an eight week period, requiring banks lend to new customers and underserved communities, new appropriations for the Paycheck Protection Program and eliminating the $1,000 per employee cap on Economic Injury Disaster Loan funding. 

“We’re planning on reconvening right now on May 4, both houses, and then we will start in earnest on a COVID 4 package,” she said.

Read Baldwin’s release:

— Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is acknowledging the frustration of the business community with the state’s stay-at-home order being extended to May 26, though he said he wasn’t surprised by the news. 

“My sense is that there is going to be continually growing frustration both from the businesses themselves, and from the employees of the businesses,” he said Friday during a webinar hosted by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. “That underscores why it’s so important for us to do whatever we can right now to emerge from this.” 

He noted the recent announcement of the new end-date for the order disappointed a lot of businesses and individuals looking for “light at the end of the tunnel.” 

“I certainly understand that frustration, and it’s real. Businesses are suffering,” he said. “You can understand why the temperatures are going to be rising. Having a plan to emerge from this and provide hope to businesses and individuals is paramount.” 

Barrett also responded to the news that the DNC host committee is reducing its staffing size, chalking up the decision to a drop in fundraising. He said he’s been speaking with many nonprofits that are challenged during the pandemic, as giving is “down dramatically.” 

“My hope remains that we will have a very vibrant convention that will be a shot in the arm for the restaurants, for the hotels here, and it will also be a signal to the nation on how a community emerges from this,” he said. “That’s what I want to see happen.”

— Wisconsin COVID-19 deaths have reached 220 with 4,346 confirmed cases.

That is 15 deaths and 301 new confirmed cases since Friday. 

Of those confirmed cases, 28 percent have been hospitalized, 7 percent received intensive care and 5 percent have died, according to DHS.

DHS’s hospital dashboard reports 397 COVID patients in hospitals statewide with 162 of those ICU COVID patients. 

Counties reporting the most deaths are Milwaukee (125), Dane (19), Waukesha (11), Ozaukee (9) and Racine (9). 

Walworth County reports six deaths. Kenosha County reports five deaths. Rock County reports four deaths. Fond du Lac, Sauk and Washington counties report three deaths each.

Grant, Outagamie and Sheboygan counties report two deaths each.

Adams, Bayfield, Brown, Buffalo, Columbia, Dodge, Door, Iron, Jackson, Juneau, Kewaunee, Marathon, Marinette, Marquette, Richland, Waupaca and Winnebago counties report one death each.

Sixty-five of Wisconsin’s 72 counties have experienced confirmed cases.

Nineteen percent of patients who have tested positive for coronavirus are between the ages of 50-59. This is followed by people 60-69 (17 percent) and 40-49 (16 percent).

Over 93 percent of patients who die from COVID-19 are over the age of 50. 

In Wisconsin, women make up 54 percent of the confirmed cases, but account for 41 percent of deaths. Meanwhile, men make up 46 percent of confirmed cases, but account for 59 percent of the total deaths. 

The African American community makes up 24 percent of the state’s confirmed cases, but account for 36 percent of deaths due to COVID-19. 

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— This April marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, founded by Wisconsin native Gaylord Nelson, a former governor and U.S. senator.

To mark the occasion, is hosting a virtual lunchtime event on Tuesday, April 21 entitled “Earth Day: the Next 50 Years.” The program is set to run from noon to 1 p.m. 

Headlining the hour-long discussion will be Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, chair of the Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change, and state Rep. Mike Kuglitsch, R-New Berlin, chair of the Assembly Committee on Energy and Utilities, and a member of the task force.

After a half-hour of questions from and audience members, expert speakers will join in for the second half-hour, offering their perspectives on environmental, conservation, transportation and business trends over the next 50 years. 

See a list of speakers and register here: 


# Here’s how Milwaukee business executives are reacting to Gov. Evers extending Safer at Home order

# 2 teams investigate Wisconsin COVID-19 outbreaks, hundreds protest stay-at-home order

# Wisconsin health officials encourage providers to cast wider net in COVID-19 testing

# As meat processing plants suspend operations, worry begins over market



– Patrick Cudahy meat plant partially closes for 2 weeks

– WCMA’s championship cheese auction to be held online


– Read stories of area firms scrambling to secure stimulus money to survive the pandemic


– Utilities delay Badger Hollow solar farm construction due to COVID-19


– Four weeks of Wisconsin unemployment claims worse than any previous 12-week stretch

– Safer At Work: MMAC forwards plan for some employers to launch ‘smart restart’

– Many Milwaukee-area business execs support gradual reopening of state economy


– Despite layoff notice, Advanced Pain Management striving to remain viable: CEO

– DHS: 4,199 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin

– Local midwives seeing surge in requests for home births amid COVID-19 pandemic

– Q&A: Joshua Wright is watching racial disparities play out with COVID-19


– Wisconsin Farm Bureau begins search for next CAO


– Harley-Davidson finance exec to take over global sales function

– Sargento Foods donating $2 million in cheese


– Zilber Family Foundation commits $3 million to nonprofits’ COVID-19 response


– Several Republican legislators blast Evers’ extension of ‘Safer at Home’ order


– BMO Tower open to tenants, Michael Best moving in

– Zilber plans massive mixed-use development at former Kenosha dog track site

– BMO Tower is ready, but BMO Harris Bank delays move due to COVID-19


– OSHA not cracking down on businesses that fail to follow COVID-19 guidelines


– Pearl Mist Cruises delays 2020 port calls in Milwaukee due to COVID-19


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