MON AM News: Pivoting during a pandemic; Low-income, minority communities seeing more cases of COVID-19

— Manufacturers in the state are ramping up their efforts to supply personal protective equipment such as face shields, as well as crucial parts for medical devices used in the pandemic response. 

Midwest Prototyping President Steven Grundahl says his company intends to produce 1 million face shields for health care workers after pivoting in response to the current crisis. 

“We’re used to doing short runs and unique projects; problem-solving is our daily business,” he told 

In a recent interview, Grundahl explained that assembling the masks themselves isn’t very complex. The trick, he said, has been putting together the supply chain for elastic, plastic lenses, foam pieces and other product elements. 

“It’s been a real challenge, but now we’ve got our supply chain locked down,” he said, noting most of his suppliers for face shield parts are based in Wisconsin. 

At the moment, his Blue Mound-based business can create up to 10,000 face shields per day and is adding more remote production sites over the next week. Once those are set up, Grundahl expects to be able to produce as many as 30,000 face shields per day. 

While Midwest Prototyping is fielding requests for face shields from here in Wisconsin and worldwide, Pindel Global Precision in New Berlin has been churning out thousands of ventilator parts for machines needed to treat COVID-19 patients. 

Company CEO Bill Berrien says Pindel is making seven different parts for ventilators, with capacity to produce more than 7,000 of each part. He explained the parts are “critical” for these machines. 

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— Poorer urban communities and minority communities are experiencing more confirmed cases of COVID-19 due to close proximity and health disparities, according to Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer and state epidemiologist for communicable disease. 

“We know in Milwaukee County in our poorer urban communities and ethnic minority communities, that there are health disparities through a large range of health conditions,” he said. That includes living and economic situations and health care resources. 

“What we’re focused on is not just counting, but actually getting health services to areas where cases are,” he said. 

Westergaard said that need is greatest in urban areas where populations are dense and where health services are “the least robust.” 

“Our priority has been to reduce health disparities in urban populations,” he said.

DHS Secretary Andrea Palm said DHS has already provided more resources such as epidemiologists to Milwaukee. 

“We are working very closely with our partners on ground in Milwaukee to make sure they have what they need to be most effectively responsive to what’s going on on the ground there,” she said.

Click here for coronavirus resources and information: 

— Gov. Tony Evers has announced a new statewide initiative called “Resilient Wisconsin.’’ 

“As we face COVID-19 in Wisconsin, resilience is how we’ll band together and grow in the state in the face of unprecedented times,” Evers said Friday. 

The purpose of the initiative and new website is to act as a tool for Wisconsinites to take care of themselves such as reducing stress and maintaining relationships. 

See the announcement from DHS: 

— Economic development groups in the Fox Cities area have launched the Winnebago County COVID-19 Rapid Recovery Loan Program, which will provide $750,000 in loans to small businesses. 

Partners in the fund include the Fox Cities Regional Partnership, the Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Oshkosh Economic Development Corporation. Loans are being offered for between $1,000 and $10,000 to cover rent and mortgage payments, utility costs, payroll and other expenses. 

“This is a great opportunity for the County Industrial Development Board to directly help county businesses that are suffering through the current pandemic,” said Mark Harris, Winnebago County Executive. 

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— UW-Milwaukee’s Zilber School of Public Health is launching a new online platform for tracking symptoms of COVID-19, in hopes of giving officials an early warning for potential flare-ups. 

The system is anonymous, only associating symptom information from surveys with ZIP code and date. Anyone 18 and older can use it and parents can report for their children, according to a release. 

Amy Kalkbrenner, an epidemiologist with the university, acknowledges that some reporting may be linked to other respiratory diseases. But she says it’s possible to make “pretty good guesses” that will still be useful for health departments. 

“Symptom data can be thought of as an ‘early warning system,’” Kalkbrenner said. “If enough people are reporting, the symptom data should show an uptick quite a few days ahead of lab testing data. This would allow time for Milwaukee to ramp up the medical care personnel and equipment when it’s most needed.”

It’s open to anyone in the United States to use, and a Spanish version of the site is also available. A group called Code for Milwaukee is helping organize and display results of the survey by ZIP code on a website. 

See the survey site: 

— Background checks for handgun sales in Wisconsin have skyrocketed by over 54 percent in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, while concealed-carry permit applications have seen a more modest increase.

A total of 60,581 calls were placed to the state’s “Handgun Hotline” background check service in the first three months of 2020, compared to 39,141 for the same period in 2019.

More than half of this year’s total calls so far occurred in March as the state and federal government ramped up the response to the outbreak, with Gov. Tony Evers announcing increasing restrictions on group gatherings and business activity. 

March this year saw 33,018 calls, compared to 16,795 last March. That’s an average of 1,065 calls per day this March, while for last March that figure was just under 542 calls per day.

Background checks picked up the most steam starting March 13, when President Trump declared the outbreak a national emergency. That day, background checks climbed to 1,193 and rose to a high of 2,731 on March 20, before ebbing to an average of 725 per day starting March 25, when Evers’ stay-at-home order took effect. 

The 12-day period from March 13 through March 24 saw 20,908 calls, an average of 1,742 per day.

But Department of Justice Spokeswoman Gillian Drummond said in a statement that the increase in calls hasn’t impacted response times.

See more at 


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– March Class III milk price announced at $16.25

– Wisconsin cheese production dropped in February


– Wisconsin Center District CEO predicts convention center expansion starts in 2021


– Milwaukee restaurant owners try to chart new course as they await stimulus

– Hispanic Collaborative looks to improve Milwaukee’s rank among peers


– Lakeland University awarded $35 million federal loan to build new dorms, refinance debt

– Blue Ribbon Sale of Champions Foundation offering scholarships

– Before MPS can ramp up digital teaching, it needs to find out how many students need computers, internet


– Milwaukee officials seek to build COVID-19 care facility on State Fair Park grounds

– DHS: 1,916 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin


– American Family Insurance pledges $4 million to COVID-19 relief, nonprofits

– Gener8tor raises $11.1 million for venture investing


– Silicon Pastures among network to invest $500,000 in battery startup


– Attorneys offer free online COVID-19 advice to Wisconsinites

– Teenager allegedly threatened with jail over COVID-19 posts


– Quad/Graphics cutting pay, suspending production at some facilities


– DNC’s date change creates logistical challenge

– Convention CEO still hopes to provide ‘close approximation’ of original DNC plan in Milwaukee

– Perez promises as ‘robust a convention as possible’ for DNC


– Investor buys Downer Avenue buildings for $11.25 million

– Badger Mutual sells HQ for new Sixteenth Street health clinic


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

WDA: COVID-19 crushing the dairy industry

Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce: Winnebago County COVID-19 Rapid Recovery Loan Program formed  

UW-Madison: Coronavirus vaccine to be developed