THU AM News: “Culture of connection” makes workplace healthier, more productive; Evers allocates $5M to expand high-speed, broadband internet

— Even before COVID-19, employees were suffering from a “real crisis” of disconnection in the workplace. While the pandemic accelerated it, now is the time to solve it.

Dr. Vivek Murthy, former U.S. Surgeon General, said upwards of 25 percent of people struggle with loneliness in the workplace, about the same percentage of those who experience loneliness in the general population. 

“What happens is that their engagement at work drops, their productivity suffers, their creativity is inpaired, and it can even have impacts on their longevity in the organization as well as have an impact on the people around them who feel less connected to them and less fulfilled in their own experience,” said Murthy, author of the recently released New York Times best-selling book, “Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World.”

Murthy joined Dr. Richard Davidson, founder and director of the Center for Healthy Minds at UW-Madison, in a fireside chat that headlined the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce’s sixth annual IceBreaker program yesterday. Before the event, GMCC President Zach Brandon said that nearly 700 business leaders were tuning in to IceBreaker. 

“There’s a ripple effect if you will, of loneliness in the workplace, and recognizing that powerful impact that it has is why people… have made it a point to say addressing loneliness in the workplace is not just the human thing to do but it actually makes sense from a business perspective,” Murthy said.

He suggested businesses create opportunities for employees to actually understand one another beyond their skill sets, create opportunities for them to help one another and model the importance of social connection and vulnerability. Murthy added organizations that have used these “ingredients” to build a “culture of connection” make the workplace a healthier and more productive space.

Read the full story at 

— Evers announced yesterday he’s using more than $5 million from the federal CARES Act to expand high-speed, broadband internet.

The money will be targeted to groups that missed out on a round of state grants to expand broadband access. To qualify, recipients will have to be able to connect customers by Dec. 30 to meet requirements for the federal money, which was sent to states to help deal with costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Evers said the “pandemic further illustrates the need for additional funding to expand broadband.”

The federal money is coming as a second round of state grants are in the pipeline.

The first round of $24 million in state grants was handed out in March. The Public Service Commission, which oversees the program, received 143 applications seeking $50.3 million. The Broadband Expansion Grant Program provides money to organizations, service providers and local governments to expand access in underserved and unserved areas.

Applications for the second round of state grants, also $24 million, are due Dec. 1 with the money expected to go out in the spring.

The PSC also will award grants through the CARES Act funding.

— The state is offering an additional $3 million in no-interest microloans to Kenosha businesses damaged during the civil unrest that followed a police officer shooting a Black man this summer.

Earlier this month, Gov. Tony Evers and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. directed $1 million in Disaster Relief Microloan program funds to Kenosha small business owners who suffered losses. Yesterday’s announcement brings the total to $4 million and increases the maximum loan available to each business from $20,000 to $50,000.

According to the governor’s release, this decision was sparked after the guv and WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes held a Sept. 10 meeting with Kenosha business owners, who said they are facing unprecedented costs to rebuild.

“We know Kenoshans are working to reconstruct and repair in the wake of devastation, and we want to do everything we can to support the Kenosha Comeback,” Evers said. “I have seen firsthand the resilience of this community, and we are going to do everything we can to be there as they work to rebuild and move forward together.”

The Kenosha Area Business Alliance is administering the loans. Businesses can use the loans for repair work and operating expenses, such as reconstruction and payroll.

“Our Kenosha community has obviously been greatly impacted by tragedy and turmoil,” said Rep. Tod Ohnstad, D-Kenosha. “I am grateful Governor Evers and WEDC Secretary Hughes have made it a priority for the state to assist in repairing and rebuilding and am pleased we could secure these resources to help with the healing after recent events.”

— Nonprofits and community-based organizations can apply for grants between $10,000 and $100,000 to advance entrepreneurship statewide.

The Entrepreneurship Support Program through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. is for projects that promote entrepreneurship and provide entrepreneurs with key resources including training, mentorship, business development and financial services.

“The program has proven to be a catalyst in filling resource gaps, launching new initiatives and building strong community networks,” said Aaron Hagar, WEDC’s vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation. “We look forward to seeing what type of innovative grant proposals are developed to provide entrepreneurs throughout the state with the support and resources they need to launch successful businesses.”

While WEDC has a variety of programs to support early-stage businesses, this initiative provides funding to whose efforts may not meet the eligibility criteria for existing programs.

Since 2016, the initiative has provided nearly $2 million in grants to 32 organizations statewide.

The competitive program will provide grants that must be matched by the applicant. Funding can be used for personnel, professional services or materials directly related to the project, but may not be used for land, facility costs or equipment. Projects supported by the program must take place during calendar year 2021.

For more information and to apply by Oct. 23, visit: 

— Viral marketing professional and entrepreneur Jon Jacques is the latest to join the 2020 Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium line-up.

Jacques will offer his expertise as a social media influencer for clients large and small during the Wisconsin Technology Council’s virtual symposium on Nov. 9-11. 

Through his online courses and presentations, Jacques has taught more than 20,000 entrepreneurs and small business owners how to leverage social media to bolster their personal brands and businesses. He’s also worked with firms such as Disney, Kate Spade, Sony, Starwood, AT&T and Anheuser-Busch to increase revenues.

“Jon Jacques is a captivating speaker and teacher who helps companies of all sizes expand their marketing reach, including emerging firms,” said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. “Jon will set the stage for company leaders and investors alike by helping them to think strategically about their online marketing.”

Instructions for how to apply for all or a mix of the investor presentation opportunities can be found at on the “ESS applications” tab.

— The Office of the Commissioner of Insurance is requesting authority to spend over $5.8 million in one-time money and over $1.2 million in annual costs in the 2021-2023 biennial budget.

This money would be used by the Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund to update its claims and administration system. 

The IPFCF is a segregated fund and does not receive any financial support from the state’s general fund. It is asking to spend its own money — which is done through the state biennial budget process.

IPFCF Manager Brynn Bruijn-Hansen told that IPFCF has “sufficient funds” available to cover the request. 

Hansen explained that the current claims and administration system was created back in the 1990s and is outdated. 

“The only significant update to the system occurred in 2010, and that update only impacted the administrative portion of the system,” she said. “The system was originally developed to capture data, and it does not utilize or analyze data or automate workflows.”

As a result, Hansen said the system requires a significant amount of manual intervention to interpret and process the data that’s captured. Not only that, but IPFCF is concerned about the continued functionality of the system due to its age.

The new system would allow the IPFCF to automate workflows, analyze data and implement industry best practices, she added. IPFCF’s stakeholders — doctors, hospital systems and primary insurance carriers — will be able to complete their tasks faster in a more secure environment. 

“The new system is also a rules-based system which will allow us to proactively catch errors that lead to requests for retroactive coverage, which take a lot of time and resources to resolve,” Hansen said. “The benefit to the impacted stakeholders is also evident by the support from the IPFCF Board of Governors for advancing this request to be included in the biennial budget.”

In an IPFCF board meeting earlier this month, the motion to request the money was approved unanimously. 

She wasn’t aware of the last time the IPFCF requested an increase in spending authority in the budget, if Gov. Tony Evers will include it in the executive budget or how the request will be received by the Legislature. 

Evers’ office was not available to comment on if the request would be included in the budget. 

Meanwhile, Joint Finance Committee Chair Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, said he “look(s) forward to discussing the request with OCI and determining how the request fits within the entire state budget.”

You can see the full OCI budget request here:

— All 72 Wisconsin counties rank high for COVID-19 activity, according to the state Department of Health Services. 

The state as a whole has a high case burden, meaning a rate of over 100 cases per 100,000 residents. Wisconsin also has a growing trajectory of COVID-19 cases, meaning the percent change over last week is greater than 10 percent.

Only Barron and Polk counties have a “moderately high” burden of cases, but are still ranked high for coronavirus activity.

— Milwaukee County no longer leads the state with the highest coronavirus infection ratio as its daily cases slow.

Brown County now has the state’s highest rate at 30.9 cases per 1,000 people, up from 26.2 last week. In one week Brown County added 1,215 COVID-19 cases. The county has a cumulative total of 8,032 confirmed cases. DHS data show that beginning late August, Brown County has seen its number of new cases rise every day.

The second-highest infection ratio in the state is Milwaukee County at 29 cases per 1,000 people. It added 1,472 cases in one week for a cumulative 27,356 confirmed cases. While the case burden is still high, the county has seen new lows in daily confirmed cases beginning in late August.  

Forest County’s infection ratio is 25.6 per 1,000 people and its cases number 231, an increase of 11 cases in one week. Walworth County has an infection ratio of 24.4 per 1,000 people and a cumulative total of 2,503 confirmed COVID-19 cases after adding 221 cases in one week. 

Dodge, Iron, Kenosha, Kewaunee, La Crosse, Marinette, Oconto, Outagamie, Racine and Trempealeau are the other counties that are above the state average infection ratio of 18.32 cases per 1,000 people.

See DHS’ data dashboard with county and HERC region breakdown here:

— DHS is conducting 160 more facility-wide COVID-19 investigations than last week, for a total of 1,356 investigations statewide.

Workplaces outside the health care industry account for 459 of the current investigations, followed by 292 in long-term care facilities.

Long-term care facilities are reporting 430 deaths due to COVID-19, making up 34 percent of the state’s death count. These include nursing homes and assisted living facilities, such as community-based residential facilities and residential care apartment complexes.

There are 124 active nursing home investigations.

About 89 percent of confirmed COVID-19 patients who have died in the state were age 60 or older.

Eighty-two of the investigations are in group housing facilities including correctional facilities, homeless shelters, dormitories and group homes, which have seen 53 COVID-19 deaths, four more than last week, or 4 percent of the state’s total.

There are 420 deaths categorized as “unknown,” meaning they may or may not have occurred at these facilities — 26 more than last week. According to DHS, People with “unknown” group housing status do not have information completed in the Wisconsin Electronic Disease Surveillance System regarding whether they live in a group housing setting or not. That information is being constantly updated. 

The state is also conducting 273 investigations in “other settings,” which according to DHS include adult day care centers, restaurants, event spaces and religious settings. One hundred and ninety-two investigations are taking place in educational facilities and 58 investigations in health care facilities. 

Counties with the highest numbers of investigations include: Milwaukee (190), Dane (118), Kenosha (107), Brown (92), Waukesha (91) and Outagamie (79). 

See a breakdown of active public health investigations by county here: 

— Wisconsin added 1,762 new COVID-19 cases yesterday, lifting the seven-day average for daily confirmed cases to 1,889. 

Only one day in the past two weeks has had a daily case total under 1,000. Recent record highs have resulted in a steady increase of the seven-day average for daily confirmed cases.

The daily rate of positive tests fell to 13.1 percent from 13.3 percent after the state recorded 13,453 total tests yesterday. The seven-day positive test average rose to 16.9 percent from 16.7 percent. That average continues to rise further from state health officials’ preferred rate of 5 percent or less.

The state reports 105,932 cumulative COVID-19 cases with 89,393 of those people recovered. Meanwhile, about 1.2 percent of patients have died from the virus, a declining percentage.

Wisconsin added eight new COVID-19 deaths yesterday, bringing the total to 1,259. Milwaukee County leads the toll with 525 reported deaths.

Counties reporting deaths in the double digits include: Racine (94), Waukesha (86), Kenosha (65), Brown (61), Dane (41), Walworth (34), Rock (32), Washington (32), Outagamie (28), Winnebago (23), Grant (19), Ozaukee (19), Waupaca (19), Sheboygan (15), Dodge (14), Marathon (14) and Fond du Lac (13).

Click here for more coronavirus resources and updates:  


# Kenosha protesters sue Facebook and armed men they say helped incite violence through social media

# State Sets Record For Hospitalized COVID-19 Patients

# More Than 40 Percent Of 2020 Farm Income Projected To Come From Federal Payments



– New Tuber Tools Coming 

– Platteville Fish Dealer Facing Charges 

– Make Your Land Accessible To The Public 


– Bankers fear missing out and yearn to get back on the road 


– Unemployment rate in Milwaukee falls to 10%, 7.4% for metro area  


– UW to end quarantine at Witte, Sellery residence halls, plans return to in-person classes

– With COVID-19 On The Rise In Wisconsin, Many Schools Have Transitioned To Virtual Learning 


– Foxconn leads $22M investment round for Texas touch screen startup 


– Advanced Pain Management files for receivership  


– Wisconsin Conservatory of Music maintains staff and operations with online transition, PPP loan 


– Another business moving from Illinois to Salem Business Park 


– Pompeo warns of China influence in state, local governments

– GOP Lawmakers Ask Court To Overturn Extension To Mail-In Ballot Deadline


– With Covid positivity rising, Milwaukee could stay under mask order, restricted reopening for a while 


– UW-Eau Claire Football Players Involved In Racist Post To Be Allowed Back On Team 

– Badgers Prepare For A Flexible Fall Football Season 


– Justice Dept. urges Congress to limit tech’s legal shield 

– Milwaukee startup looks to connect freelance tech professionals with jobs 


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

Gov. Evers: Announces more than $5 million in CARES Act funding for broadband expansion

Destination Kohler: Unveils Straits Chapel on Lake Michigan