THU AM News: DWD has sent out $3B in unemployment since March 15; WEDC hosts outdoor events highlighting local leaders’ efforts to combat COVID

— Since March 15, the Department of Workforce Development paid 475,000 people over $3 billion but says more federal unemployment compensation is needed.

The $600 per week supplement — Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation — ended the week ended last month. 

“We’re watching negotiations out in D.C. for any extension or replacement very closely,” said DWD Secretary Caleb Frostman in a Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce briefing. “We’ve advocated for the extension of the $600-a-week benefit, understanding that it’s temporary in nature.”

Having up to 10 percent of the workforce living on a maximum of $370 per week is a “pretty grim prospect,” Frostman said, adding that an additional stimulus is also critical as an economic stimulus in order to keep families and the state’s economy afloat. 

In four and a half months, DWD fielded 833,000 initial claims — almost triple of the initial claims filed in all of 2019. The department peaked in late March with a couple of weeks over 100,000 initial claims, but has seen sustained levels in the 20,000-30,000 initial claims since June. 

Last week, DWD dipped into the high teens at unofficially about 17,000 initial claims. 

“With those types of numbers and that kind of volume, obviously our workload at DWD remains quite high,” Frostman said.

However, the department is seeing a sustained high level of both recurring claims and issues that require adjudication, but Frostman said he’s optimistic that his team can clear it. 

“Since March, we have essentially quadrupled our UI personnel resources,” he said. 

DWD went from 500 people working on UI to just over 2,000 people in the last four and a half months. The department added 450 adjudicators and expanded phones from 60 in March to 800 today. 

“We’re grateful that we’re making strong progress,” Frostman said.

— Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. officials, including Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes, are attending outdoor events with local leaders today in four Wisconsin cities highlighting efforts to combat COVID-19.

The events will showcase work by local governments and small businesses to implement best practices, such as social distancing, handwashing, cleaning surfaces, wearing masks and staying home from work when sick. 

The events will take place in Fond du Lac, Rhinelander, Green Bay and Ashland today. WEDC officials held similar events yesterday in La Crosse, Beloit, Stevens Point, Tomah and Milwaukee. 

“If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s that the health of our people and the health of our economy are intertwined,” Hughes said. “That’s why WEDC is encouraging Wisconsin businesses and citizens to adopt the necessary practices and behaviors for our state to continue its progress toward reopening with confidence.”

These events are a part of the “We’re All In” initiative, a campaign by WEDC and its partners to create a “community of communities” in support of public health and safety measures. The initiative aims to reach every Wisconsinite through social media or events, and give opportunities to actively participate in the state’s recovery effort. 

“Through conventional and digital media, online and physical business resources and social sharing, We’re All In will inspire us all to show our pride in making a difference and going all in for Wisconsin,” Hughes said.

— COVID-19 hospitalizations number 330, up 47 patients from mid-July, according to the Wisconsin Hospital Association’s coronavirus data dashboard.

COVID-19 ICU patients number 112, up 27 patients from July 13. 

About 56 percent of Wisconsin’s total patients — 186 — are in southeastern Wisconsin. The association also reports 40 or fewer patients in each of the six other public health regions of the state.

Health care workers account for about 8 percent of confirmed COVID-19 cases at 4,727, an increase of 1,066 cases in about 16 days, according to DHS. 

See the WHA hospital dashboard here

— Sixty-six Wisconsin counties are ranked high by DHS for COVID-19 activity, up five from last week.

The other six counties are ranked at medium activity.

Counties seeing both an increased trend in cases and a high burden of cases are Barron, Dodge, Eau Claire, Marinette, Ozaukee, Racine, Sawyer, Walworth, Washburn and Washington. 

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

In terms of infection ratios, Milwaukee County has the state’s largest at 21.1 per 1,000 people. In one week, Milwaukee County added 1,406 new COVID-19 cases to its count, giving the county a cumulative total of 20,175 confirmed cases.

The second-largest infection ratio in the state is Racine County at 17.1 per 1,000 people. It added 604 cases in one week for a cumulative total of 3,343 confirmed cases. 

Brown County has an infection ratio of 15.8 per 1,000 people and a cumulative total of 4,100 confirmed COVID-19 cases after adding 245 cases in one week. Kenosha County’s infection ratio is 15.2 per 1,000 people and cases number 2,561 an increase of 220 cases in one week.

Iron (12.8), Walworth (12.5) and Trempealeau (10.9) are the only other counties that are above the state average infection ratio of 9.9 per 1,000 people. 

And in terms of cases, six other counties have over 1,000 cumulative confirmed cases. These are Dane (4,340), Waukesha (3,841), Rock (1,382), Walworth (1,291), Outagamie (1,158) and Winnebago (1,094).

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

— DHS took on 95 more facility-wide investigations this week. It’s now conducting 1,071 statewide.

Non-health care workplaces account for 421 of the current investigations, followed by 285 happening in long-term care facilities.

Long-term care facilities in the state are reporting 378 deaths due to COVID-19, making up 39 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 101 active nursing home investigations.

Almost 88 percent of confirmed COVID-19 patients who have died in the state were age 60 or older.

Fifty-one of the investigations are in group housing facilities including correctional facilities, homeless shelters, dormitories and group homes, which have seen 46 COVID-19 deaths, or 5 percent of the state’s total.

Two hundred and seventy-one 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 (42) and “other settings” (272). A majority of the investigations are taking place in Milwaukee (184), Waukesha (123), Brown (103), Dane (94) and Kenosha (83) counties.

There have been a total of 1,761 investigations, with 690 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 884 new COVID-19 cases after receiving a total of 17,023 tests, bringing the percentage of positive tests per total tests up to 5.2 percent. 

The state has collected over 1 million specimens. The percentage of cumulative positive tests per total tests is about 5.7 percent, according to DHS’ figures. Health officials have stressed that below 5 percent is where the state needs to be. 

The seven-day average of daily confirmed cases is 842, up from 840. 

The new cases bring the cumulative case count to 56,940 and active cases to 9,629 or 16.9 percent of the state’s total confirmed cases. Active cases are defined as those still in a 30-day waiting period of symptom onset or diagnosis.

Recovered patients number 46,323, or 81.4 percent of the state’s total confirmed cases, a rising percentage. Meanwhile 1.7 percent of patients have died. Patients have an 8.5 percent chance of being hospitalized.

Click here for more coronavirus resources and updates: 

— DHS also reports nine new COVID-19 deaths, bringing the state’s death toll to 970.

Ashland County reported its first COVID-19 death. Milwaukee County reported three more deaths, Sheboygan County had two, while Eau Claire, Monroe and Racine counties each reported one more death. 

Counties reporting deaths include: Milwaukee (450), Racine (78), Kenosha (58), Waukesha (57), Brown (52), Dane (37), Rock (26), Washington (22), Walworth (21), Winnebago (18), Ozaukee (17), Waupaca (15), Grant (14), Outagamie (13), Sheboygan (8), Clark (7), Marathon (7), Fond du Lac (6), Dodge (5), Jefferson (5), Eau Claire (4), Forest (4) and Richland (4).

Barron, Door, Marinette and Sauk counties report three deaths each. Adams, Buffalo, Calumet, Kewaunee, Monroe, Polk, St. Croix and Trempealeau counties report two deaths each.

Ashland, Bayfield, Burnett, Columbia, Green, Iron, Jackson, Juneau, La Crosse, Langlade, Manitowoc, Marquette, Rusk and Wood counties report one death each.

— The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration awarded DHS a $2 million grant to support the state’s behavioral health response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The grant includes services for people of all ages with mental health and substance use challenges and health care workers. 

“While our primary focus during the COVID-19 pandemic has been on the physical well-being of our residents, we cannot overlook the impact this crisis has had on behavioral well-being, an essential part of overall health,” said DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk. 

DHS is partnering with seven counties identified as having the greatest need for behavioral health services relative to the COVID-19 pandemic and each received between $122,000 and $320,000 in funds: Brown, Dane, Kenosha, Milwaukee, Racine, Rock and Waukesha.

Mental Health America of Wisconsin was awarded $48,016 to provide treatment services to health care workers statewide through telehealth. Behavioral Consulting Services was awarded $58,203 to provide treatment and recovery support to staff at long-term care facilities statewide.

“We all are feeling a sense of uncertainty right now, and for those with mental health and substance use concerns and our health care workers, this has been an especially challenging time,” Willems Van Dijk said. “This grant funding allows us to work with our community partners to open new pathways for people who need immediate help.”

The remainder of the grant funding is allocated to collecting data and monitoring the effectiveness of each project. The grant funding is available through August 2021.


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

– WEDC: Communities, businesses, citizens say ‘We’re All In’ to stop spread of COVID-19 

– BBB: What car buyers consider before making a purchase 

– Standard Process: Names Gene Ford as its new Vice President of Research and Development