MON AM News: Hospitals concerned about potential shortage of respirator masks; Care providers able to order coronavirus tests, officials say

— Care providers in the state are concerned they may not have enough high-quality respirator masks for their workers if a large number of COVID-19 patients require hospitalization. 

That’s according to Dr. Mark Kaufman, chief medical officer for the Wisconsin Hospital Association. He explained that N95 respirator masks protect health workers from becoming infected while caring for patients with the coronavirus. WHA has been in talks with state officials about accessing national stockpiles of personal protective equipment, including these masks.

“Should there be a surge of patients infected with COVID-19, understanding the supply of N95 masks at each hospital will maximize the chances of matching supply to need,” Kaufman said in an email. 

In the meantime, he noted hospitals are making changes to ensure they have enough capacity, supplies and staff to handle the outbreak. Many hospitals are restricting travel for their workers and cancelling large gatherings such as conferences. 

“Hospitals are developing contingency plans for a large influx of COVID-19 patients needing inpatient care and discussing when and if it will be appropriate to cancel elective surgeries to free up bed capacity,” Kaufman said. 

See more: 

— Dr. Ryan Westergaard, the state’s chief medical officer, says health care providers are able to use their own judgment on testing patients and don’t need permission from the health department to order tests. He said tests should be reserved for higher-risk patients such as the elderly. 

According to the most recent update from the state Department of Health Services, 33 people in Wisconsin have tested positive for the virus. 

See more on the outbreak from DHS: 

— A recent survey from NFIB Wisconsin found two-thirds of small business respondents aren’t currently affected by the coronavirus outbreak. 

But over 40 percent of small business owners not currently impacted expect their companies to be affected if the virus spreads in their immediate area over the next three months. Another 20 percent of that group don’t expect to be impacted and 37 percent are uncertain. 

Slower sales and disrupted supply chains are impacting the affected businesses, including Ward Brodt Music of Fitchburg. In a release from the organization, owner Connie Smith notes that part of her business relies on “mouthpiece testing” for school music programs. 

“We always have a disinfectant process in place when doing this, however, to be part of the answer and not part of the problem we are postponing this testing which means that a significant part of our income is being delayed or omitted in some cases,” she said. 

Around a third of respondents have stocked up on hand sanitizer and disinfectant and 12 percent have discussed sick leave or work-from-home policies with workers. Three percent have modified their supply chain or changed buyers or vendors, but a full 52 percent say they haven’t taken any “measurable steps” in response to the virus. 

The survey was conducted last week on a random sample of NFIB’s small business membership database. The group got 300 responses from small business leaders with less than 120 employees.

See the full study: 

— Gov. Tony Evers has directed the Department of Health Services to close all K-12 schools — public and private — beginning Wednesday and stretching through at least April 6 as part of the state’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.

In his announcement Friday, Evers said the reopening date could be pushed back pending further information.

Evers’ announcement came as districts across the state began making decisions on their own to close their doors in response to the outbreak. The mandate begins Wednesday to allow districts time to prepare, and Evers noted districts may close earlier if they choose.

“Closing our schools is not a decision I made lightly, but keeping our kids, our educators, our families, and our communities safe is a top priority as we continue our work to respond to and prevent further spread of COVID-19 in Wisconsin,” Evers said.

See more at

— The state Public Service Commission is directing utilities in Wisconsin to hold off on disconnecting any customers who haven’t paid their bills until the current public health emergency ends. 

According to a release from the agency, this applies to any water, electric, and natural gas utilities in the state. Plus, these utilities are being asked to make “reasonable attempts” to reconnect any residential customers who’ve been disconnected. 

The release shows the state already has an ongoing winter moratorium for disconnecting households from services for home heating, which would normally end April 15. While the public health emergency is ongoing, that moratorium will continue. 

Once the public health emergency is over, utilities will be able to disconnect customers again without further notice. 

See the release: 

— The latest episode of “Meeting in Middle America” with host Steven Olikara dives into education issues with Erin Richards, a national education reporter for USA Today who previously covered K-12 for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 

The discussion highlights trends influencing education in the Midwest and across the country. Richards weighs in on challenges surrounding equitable achievement, the school choice debate, the influence of partisan politics on education and much more. 

“Graduation rates in WIsconsin have always been quite high, among the highest in the country, but what does it mean that we can have high graduation rates as a state but we still have some of the lowest reading scores in the country for African-Americans,” she said. “In other states and other cities, those same paradoxes can happen.” 

Find the podcast on Spotify and Apple Podcasts, and watch the video here: 


# MMAC holding webinar to help businesses navigate coronavirus

# Judgment for $20.5 million entered against Aloria Health of Milwaukee

# COVID-19 and construction: How a hands-on industry is handling an outbreak

# Number of COVID-19 cases increases to 33 in Wisconsin



– Alice in Dairyland finalists announced in Walworth County

– WPS Farm Show canceled, PDPW event to be streamed online


– Milwaukee County closes Zoo, senior centers, several parks facilities

– Surge of Milwaukee closures continues amid coronavirus spread, including Zoo, Domes and JCC


– UWM Foundation employee tests negative for coronavirus

– Dane County schools closing immediately due to COVID-19, restaurants to reduce capacity by half–restaurants/article_beb2c265-e4c0-5f34-a148-38b828db832b.html#tracking-source=home-top-story


– DNR: 51 invasive carp in Mississippi River near La Crosse


– Lakefront Brewery closed to the public, Third Space cancels tours

– North Carolina chain to open restaurant in downtown Milwaukee


– 5 new COVID-19 cases in Fond du Lac County raise total to 33

– Downtown Milwaukee office building has employee with confirmed case of coronavirus

– DHS secretary: Effort underway to expand coronavirus test availability in Wisconsin


– Sen. Baldwin calls on USDA to help dairy farmers

– State farm groups push Senate to approve ag-related bills


– The Explorium Brewpub plans location near downtown Milwaukee


– ‘It’s time to be aggressive’: Dane County closes schools, bans large gatherings, caps restaurant capacity

– Dane County takes aggressive measures in wake of coronavirus pandemic


– Pick ‘n Save parent Kroger, Wal-Mart cut store hours amid COVID-19 spread

– Stone Creek Coffee to close 13 cafes for at least two weeks due to coronavirus spread


– Bucks stars, team pledge donations to Fiserv Forum employees


– Hospitality industry analysts compare current COVID-19 era to 9/11, Great Recession


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

Bradley Corporation: Shares hand washing habits across the United States

J.J. Keller: Releases free whitepaper to help employers address coronavirus outbreak