MON AM News: Long-term care groups highlighting role of members; State COVID-19 death toll hits 400

— Long-term care provider associations in the state are highlighting important services as the state prepares to release more information on which facilities have confirmed cases of COVID-19. 

According to a release from LeadingAge Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Health Care Association and the Wisconsin Center for Assisted Living, DHS will start publishing a list today of nursing homes where residents have tested positive for the virus. The groups are expressing “serious concerns” about how the list will be interpreted. 

“Even the very best nursing homes may experience COVID-19, and positive identification is not an indication of the quality of care offered by the facility,” said John Sauer, CEO and president of LeadingAge Wisconsin, whose members operate around 500 facilities in the state. 

John Vander Meer, president and CEO of WHCA/WiCAL, stresses that long-term care providers are facing “tremendous challenges” including a doubling of workforce costs and a five-fold increase in the cost of personal protective equipment. 

The DHS site shows 157 residents of long term care facilities and group housing have died from COVID-19. 

See the release: 

See more later in the Health Care Report. 

— DHS reports the state’s COVID-19 death toll has hit 400 — up 16 people from Friday’s previous count.

In addition, the total number of confirmed cases increased to 10,219.

Plus, Wisconsin’s share of positive cases per number of total tests ticked up Friday after several days of decline. The numbers show 12.7 percent of total tests came back positive a week ago, followed by Saturday (10.3), Sunday (11.1), Monday (9.9), Tuesday (8.6), Wednesday (8.4) and Thursday (5.7) and Friday (8.1). 

According to Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer of the Bureau of Communicable Disease, “variation from day to day is expected.”

Westergaard told reporters in a DHS briefing that the bump in the percentage of positive test results could be from the proportion of tests done at an outbreak site. Numerous cases could have been in one facility — “just some of the reasons for a variation of numbers” that DHS will take into account for Badger Bounce Back. 

— Pedal Motive aims to keep people riding their bikes year-round with “Speedcase,” a fully enclosed bike transmission.

Every day, people rely on bikes for recreation, training and commuting. Traditional bikes rely on an exposed mechanism to shift gears and provide an optimal riding experience with minimal pedaling effort.

The exposed nature of the bike leaves it susceptible to damage from rain and dirt. When exposed to the elements, chains and gears rust, rendering the bike useless for a good portion of the year.

Pedal Motive’s Speedcase tackles this issue by enclosing the gears and chain from weather with a cover that mounts on any bike frame. The Speedcase allows riders to flip through the same 27-speed range offered by traditional gear-shifting with a single control. The mechanism comes at the same weight and price as traditional versions but mitigates the potential for damage and repair cost.

Pedal Motive founder, CEO, and daily rider Nick Hein says the idea evolved during his time living on Oregon’s often-rainy coast. 

“For about three months of the year, the bike riding was wonderful,” said Hein, who now lives in Madison.

But for the rest of the year, weather conditions largely put his bike out of commission. Consumer surveys revealed that, like Hein, “most people just live with whatever happens to the drivetrain.”

Dissatisfied with clunky alternatives such as geared hubs and bottom-bracketed gear boxes, and unwilling to accept the inevitability of damage and seasonal use prevention, Hein sought a solution. 

See more: 

— Gov. Tony Evers suggested small retail businesses might be next to see an easing of his administration’s stay-at-home order after releasing guidance for minimizing the spread of COVID-19 once businesses are allowed to reopen.

But the guv made it clear that it was only a possibility.

“Hypothetically, there’s small business owners, retail business owners that exist all across the state… main street businesses that deal with a small number of customers, that might be a place to dial,” Evers said Friday during a Department of Health Services briefing.

He noted that the smaller the number of customers interacting the better, and small retail businesses “seem to fit that mold … It’s an example of something being considered.”

And the guv is still interested in opening statewide rather than regionally “right now.”

His reasoning for a statewide approach to reopening includes: rural areas lacking the same health care capacities for an outbreak; travelers coming into rural areas for business; and the virus not obeying boundary lines.

But Evers said that doesn’t mean he would never consider opening on a regional basis.

The general advice in the governor’s guidelines included making sure employees who are sick stay home, ensuring workers have access to sanitizers and personal protective equipment when appropriate, and curtailing business travel.

The guidelines also included industry-specific recommendations:

*bars should leave two stools empty between customers who aren’t in the same party.

*companies should consider suspending coffee service.

*gyms should keep closed basketball courts and other areas where physical contact sports occur.

*movie theaters should leave at least two empty seats between groups, while limiting household groups to no more than six people.

Guidelines for outdoor recreation and gatherings were marked “coming soon.”

— Two of the six gating criteria for Gov. Tony Evers’ Badger Bounce Back plan were met as of Sunday evening, according to the state Department of Health Services. 

A color-coded dashboard at the DHS website indicates that 95 percent of all hospitals can treat all patients without resorting to lower “crisis standards” of care. Plus 95 percent of hospitals have affirmed they’ve arranged for testing of all symptomatic staff in line with CDC guidelines.

On Friday, the dashboard showed that the state had achieved a two-week downward trajectory of flu-like illnesses, meaning three of the criteria had been met. But over the weekend, that indicator changed to red, leaving only the two hospital gating criteria green. The other three metrics have not been met either, the DHS site shows. 

Wisconsin has yet to see a downward trajectory of “COVID-like” symptomatic cases over a 14-day period, or a downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests over 14 days, the site shows. And DHS says a downward trend of COVID-19 cases among health care workers, calculated weekly, hasn’t yet occurred.

See the dashboard:

— UW-Madison researchers from a wide array of disciplines are teaming up on dozens of projects related to COVID-19. 

“We’ve got some of the top virologists in the world in our veterinary medicine school at UW-Madison,” said Chancellor Rebecca Blank last week during a webinar hosted by the Wisconsin Technology Council. “They’re working collaboratively with a number of other places, leading the international effort to develop and test a vaccine.” 

As the world grapples with new challenges created by the virus, the U.S. government has issued numerous grant proposals for research aimed at COVID-19. According to Blank, UW-Madison has around 50 pending or awarded proposals “just in the last couple of months” related to the virus or its societal fallout. 

She noted that UW Health has been taking part in a national effort to run clinical trials testing the use of antibodies as potential therapies. By taking antibodies from people who have previously had the virus and introducing them to others who develop COVID-19, scientists are looking to reverse the course of the disease. 

Meanwhile, a team of researchers from the departments of geography, mathematics and life sciences are working on how to best communicate about risk and impact of the virus. 

“The goals are, what are the best practices to message about social distance, to message about risky things and how that should change our behavior?” Blank said. “It’s a really interesting question — how do you get America to start wearing masks in public, or social distance, and how do you get that message out most effectively?” 

Other collaborations are occurring between UW-Madison’s recently created American Family Data Science Institute and other academic institutions around the world. By analyzing the hourly and daily data on infections, deaths and hospitalizations, researchers are building a more accurate model over time of how the disease spreads. 

“They’re not just building the aggregate model,” she said. “They’re trying to look at impacts on different groups and make predictions about what the spread and what these infections look like.”

— Medical College of Wisconsin President Dr. John Raymond says the state can “balance lives and livelihood” by promoting workplace health and safety. 

In a Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation webinar Friday, Raymond presented MCW’s principles for workplace health and safety that list suggestions for employers to protect their employees and customers. Some examples include: screening, flexible work options, education and safety procedures.

His message to viewers: “collaboration is essential for all of us to be successful to bounce back together.”

He added that going forward, the state will need to enhance and coordinate a task team, detection, contact tracing and isolation of infected individuals in order to “get on the other side of COVID-19.”

But to do that, Raymond said mitigation must exist in public places and workplaces. 

“We need to acknowledge that the health and the economy really are inseparable and we don’t need to make either-or decisions,” said Raymond. “We can balance lives and livelihoods.”

— The state Department of Workforce Development has received two layoff notices so far this month according to the agency’s site. 

Covia Corp., a Tomah industrial sand mining company, is laying off 32 workers. Company leaders say they’re unsure how long the layoffs will last. DWD received a notice from the business on May 4. 

Meanwhile, Holy Family College in Manitowoc is permanently closing by the end of August and will be conducting multiple rounds of layoffs between now and then affecting 110 workers. Layoffs will begin June 13 and a second wave will occur at the end of June, according to a notice received May 6. 

The college’s president, Robert Callahan, points to challenges such as enrollment levels and staff retention. 

“The impact of COVID-19 accelerated our financial instability and created additional unforeseen circumstances for Holy Family College and our campus community,” he said in a letter to DWD. 

See the latest layoff notices: 


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– Peter J. Schwabe returns to the family business

– How abandoning plans for dam helped save Kickapoo Valley Reserve


– Dr. Raymond: Sans vaccine, Wisconsin will have to maintain social distancing as economy reopens


– UW-Madison graduates participate in first virtual commencement

– Wisconsin 4-H Foundation awards over $17,000 in scholarships


– Techniplas files for bankruptcy after COVID-19 stalls private equity deal


– No plans to close COVID-19 alternate care facility at State Fair Park despite lack of patients

– Find out which area health care groups, senior living facilities secured stimulus money, how much they received

– Decontamination system for N95 masks ready in Wisconsin


– Harley’s new CEO eligible for additional $1.5 million in compensation


– Evers, DATCP still working on potential direct farm payments

– Waukesha County residents mount 2nd stay-at-home lawsuit


– Allen Edmonds sells Port Washington land once eyed for warehouse expansion


– Stone Creek Coffee rolls out reopening plan


– ManpowerGroup’s Prising: What employers should be thinking about for a smart restart, reimagined future


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