THU AM News: DSPS shortens commercial plan review wait times; Rep. Tom Tiffany urges people to get back to work

— After a study, the Department of Safety and Professional Services has revamped its review process, shortening customer wait times and realigning staff for efficiency. But industry leaders are wary of an influx of applications to come before fall.

“I think the changes DSPS made have helped,” said John Schulze, director of legal and government affairs for Associated Builders and Contractors. “In addition, contractors are submitting fewer plans because right now, although we’re essential, we’re doing work on commercial buildings that have already been approved.”

Schulze told there’s hesitation among owners to build new buildings. They are making expansions instead because of the shutdown.

“When the economy restarts, the number of applications will go up,” he said.

However, DSPS Secretary Dawn Crim told in an interview that the agency is staffed and prepared to tackle the “ebbs and flows” of the economy.

“We’ve put in place a system that is responsive,” she said. “We are ready to receive that work.”

Under Crim’s tenure, the average review time has fluctuated from 43 days in the first quarter of 2019, down to 35 days in the second quarter, and back up to 46 days in the third quarter. DSPS reported today that its commercial plan review took half the time in June of 2020 than it did in January — from 50 days to 25 days — due to phase one of its three-phase pilot.

Meanwhile, the number of plans being reviewed by agency staff has been falling. In 2017, 8,845 plans were reviewed, but that number fell to 8,103 in 2018 and 7,408 in 2019.

Crim said commercial plans being reviewed for 2020 so far are consistent with “what we’ve had in the past.”

Read the full story at

See the DSPS report:

See the release from DSPS:

See the response from ABC:

— New Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Tiffany says “it’s really time we move on” from the $600 federal boost to state unemployment benefits set to run out later this month.

The Minocqua Republican told a Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce webinar yesterday the money was meant to bridge the initial months of the pandemic’s first wave, but it was never meant to be a long-term supplement.

“We gotta make sure that people are getting back to work and we’re putting every incentive out there for people to work,” he told listeners. “Because quite simply, as a couple, you could theoretically make $100,000 a year sitting on extended unemployment. Now most people will not do that but it does serve as a disincentive to work. And I do think that we need to change that.”

Lawmakers approved of the weekly UI raise as part of its original federal stimulus package meant to curb the economic damage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the extra money to the millions of unemployed workers nationwide is set to expire by the end of the month unless Congress passes an extension.

Tiffany added as Congress debates its next stimulus package, it should shift the focus from UI bonuses to “getting people back to work.”

Some ideas Tiffany said he’s been hearing from colleagues, businesses and citizens include liability protections for schools and companies if someone tests positive for coronavirus.

He said the fate of liability protections would probably depend on what Dems and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will ask for in exchange.

“I’m just hoping the price tag is not so high, for example bailouts for states like Illinois, that it’s going to be impossible for us to get those liability protections that need to be put in place,” Tiffany said.

But Tiffany said he didn’t know if the additional $600 would go away entirely as negotiations continue. He touted a Trump administration suggestion that, instead of the UI boost, workers would instead get a payroll tax reduction to encourage people to seek out jobs.

Tiffany won a May 12 special election to fill the vacant 7th CD after former U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy resigned last fall.

— Wisconsin saw 712 new COVID-19 cases yesterday, and the seven-day daily case average has fallen to 874 from 890.

The percentage of positive tests per total tests is 4.8 percent, according to the Department of Health Services’ data dashboard, dipping below 5 percent for the first time since July 7.

The new cases bring the cumulative case count to 44,847 and active cases to 9,285 or 20.7 percent of total cases.  

People ages 20-29 account for 26 percent of confirmed COVID-19 cases, ahead of people ages 30-39 at 17 percent. However, each of those age groups account for 1 percent of the state’s deaths.

The number of recovered patients number 34,682 or 77.4 percent, while 1.9 percent of patients have died. Active cases are defined as those still in a 30-day waiting period of symptom onset or diagnosis.

The state received 14,780 total tests today; Wisconsin has a capacity for 24,162 tests per day.

Click here for more coronavirus resources and updates: 

— Fifty-eight Wisconsin counties are ranked high by DHS for COVID-19 activity, down one from last week.

Counties seeing both an increased trend in cases and a high burden of cases are Kenosha, Milwaukee, Racine, Walworth, Washington and Waukesha.

In terms of infection ratios, Milwaukee County has the state’s largest at 17.6 per 1,000 people. In one week, Milwaukee County added 2,118 new COVID-19 cases to its count, giving the county a cumulative total of 16,777 confirmed cases.

The second-largest infection ratio in the state is Racine County at 14.01 per 1,000 people. It added 321 cases in one week for a cumulative total of 2,739 confirmed cases. 

Brown County has an infection ratio of 13.96 per 1,000 people and a cumulative total of 3,629 confirmed COVID-19 cases after adding 281 cases in one week. Kenosha County’s infection ratio is 12.5 per 1,000 people and cases number 2,102, an increase of 271 cases in one week.

Walworth (9.5) and Trempealeau (8.2) are the only other counties that are above the state average infection ratio of 7.8 per 1,000 people. 

And in terms of cases, Dane County ranks second with 3,633 cumulative confirmed cases — an increase of 391 in one week. It has an infection ratio of 6.9, up from 6.1 last week. 

The only other counties with over 1,000 confirmed cases are Waukesha (2,540) and Rock (1,228). 

The Southeast Healthcare Emergency Readiness Coalition region of Wisconsin is also labeled as both having a high case burden and a growing trajectory.

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

— DHS took on 106 more facility-wide investigations this week. It’s now conducting 849 statewide.

Non-health care workplaces account for 329 of the current investigations, followed by 254 happening in long-term care facilities.

Long-term care facilities in the state are reporting 355 deaths due to COVID-19, making up 41 percent of total deaths in Wisconsin due to the virus. These include nursing homes and assisted living facilities, such as community-based residential facilities and residential care apartment complexes.

There are 88 active nursing home investigations.

Over 87 percent of confirmed COVID-19 patients who have died in the state were age 60 or older.

Thirty-eight of the investigations are in group housing facilities including correctional facilities, homeless shelters, dormitories and group homes, which have seen 41 COVID-19 deaths, or 5 percent of the state’s total.

Two hundred and thirty-six deaths are categorized as “unknown,” meaning they may or may not have occurred at these facilities. According to DHS, the unknown category exists because relevant information has only been collected since April 8.

DHS is also conducting investigations in health care facilities (30) and “other settings” (198). A majority of the investigations are taking place in Milwaukee (158), Waukesha (83), Dane (82), Brown (75) and Kenosha (68) counties.

There have been a total of 1,404 investigations, with 555 investigations closed. An investigation is considered closed and removed from the DHS listing 28 days after the last positive case was confirmed.

Click here to see the nursing homes under investigation and a breakdown of investigations by county: 

— DHS reports six more COVID-19 deaths, bringing the total to 865.

Barron, Brown, Milwaukee, Outagamie, Walworth and Winnebago counties each reported one new death.

Counties reporting deaths include: Milwaukee (417), Racine (69), Brown (47), Kenosha (47), Waukesha (42), Dane (33), Rock (25), Walworth (19), Washington (19), Ozaukee (16), Winnebago (15), Grant (14), Waupaca (14), Outagamie (11), Clark (7), Fond du Lac (6), Dodge (5), Sheboygan (5), Forest (4), Jefferson (4) and Richland (4).

Door, Marathon, Marinette and Sauk counties report three deaths each. Adams, Barron, Buffalo, Calumet, Eau Claire, Polk and St. Croix counties report two deaths each.

Bayfield, Burnett, Columbia, Green, Iron, Jackson, Juneau, Kewaunee, LaCrosse, Langlade, Manitowoc, Marquette, Monroe, Rusk, Trempealeau and Wood counties report one death each.

Southeastern Wisconsin experienced 73 percent of the state’s COVID-19 deaths. People ages 70-79 and 80-89 account for 26 percent and 25 percent respectively of deaths, but only 9 percent and 4 percent of the state’s confirmed cases.

— Suspected opioid overdoses have increased 117 percent since the start of the pandemic in Wisconsin compared to the same time last year, according to DHS.

Data from emergency departments in Wisconsin show 325 suspected opioid overdoses from March to July 13, compared to 150 suspected overdoses the same time in 2019.

DHS Secretary Andrea Palm noted in a release that fear of COVID-19, financial pressures and isolation are stressors that exacerbate substance use disorders.

“COVID-19 hit our state just as we were making strides in reducing the number deaths from opioids, but the signs of increasing substance abuse aren’t limited to opioids,” said Paul 

Krupski, director of Opioid Initiatives at DHS. “We encourage everyone to educate themselves on the signs of substance use disorder, whatever the substance.”

Krupski encouraged opioid victims to get and learn how to use naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug that is available over-the-counter.

Read a previous story on the increase in opioid use since the pandemic:  


# Evers calls for $250 million in cuts from state agencies

# COVID-19 testing site overwhelmed as Waukesha County deals with sharply rising coronavirus infections

# Madison City Council terminates contract providing police officers in schools

# Three More Wisconsin Cities To Require Masks In Most Public Spaces



– State Milk Output Falls Eight Consecutive Months 

– Wisconsin Meat Goat Expo is Ready to Go 

– Wisconsin Egg Production Up From Last Year 

– Support for farmers important to rural communities during COVID-19 pandemic 


– Food service jobs up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, data show 

– Milwaukee’s unemployment rate drops to 12.8% 

– Unemployment Rates Drop In All 72 Counties In Wisconsin 


– COVID-19 Cases In Wisconsin Nursing Homes Increase With Community Spread 


– Group of Milwaukee nonprofit leaders commit to diversifying their boards, workforce 


– Briggs & Stratton terminates retiree health benefits with reorganization 

– Mobile canning firm sees increased demand in Wisconsin, Illinois throughout pandemic  

– The pandemic isn’t bringing back factory jobs, at least not yet 


– Chicago-based swim school eyes Milwaukee area for expansion 

– Home building in Wisconsin down 3.8% in first half of year 


– Kohler Co. opening new golf course in 2021


– In electric car market, it’s Tesla and a jumbled field of also-rans 


– Outdoor recreation continues as major driver of tourism impact   

– DNR Secretary Preston Cole On Uptick In Wisconsin Outdoor Recreation 


– United Airlines says all passengers waiting for planes must now wear masks 


– Marklein Calls on Evers to Spend CARES Act Funds on Broadband Expansion 


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

– Wisconsin Safety Council: Leslie Ptak honored with Lifetime Achievement Award following retirement from OSHA 

– UW-Madison: New 3D-printed artery can monitor blockages from the inside 

– Alliant Energy: Announces accelerated sustainability goals in new Corporate Responsibility Report