THU AM News: Venture Investors’ director tells businesses to “be creative” during COVID-19; UW economist expects state to set new unemployment record

— The managing director of Venture Investors told businesses to “be creative” throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

John Neis addressed startup and small business leaders during a Wisconsin Tech Council webinar called “Crossing the coronavirus chasm: Tips from investors for the COVID-19 era.”

“Be creative — change creates opportunity. There certainly are some immediate needs that are created during this crisis,” he said. 

He noted Venture Investors has four portfolio companies that are directly trying to respond to COVID-19 with solutions from diagnostics to training for medical professionals during surges. 

Neis speculates there will be “significant changes” to business models because of COVID-19. He recommends business owners reevaluate how they reach customers, communicate, service or install. 

“This is going to be a tremendous learning experience for society,” he said. “I think we can all feel confident that there is going to be a dialogue about creating readiness for future pandemics, and I think that will create some business opportunities for many.”

Read the full story here: 

— An economist with UW-Madison’s Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy expects the state will soon set a new record for unemployment as claims pour in by the thousands each day. 

Noah Williams notes daily application totals have ranged from around 18,000 to 20,000, while this time last year about 800 claims were being made per day. Over the past week, around 115,000 initial unemployment insurance claims were filed, and Williams notes the existing stock of unemployed workers in Wisconsin was around 120,000 last month. 

“So we’ve essentially had unemployment double in a week,” he said during a webinar hosted by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. 

CROWE maintains a tracking estimate for the state’s unemployment rate, which was around 4 percent at the end of February on a non-seasonally adjusted basis. Now, he said that estimate is over 11 percent, which is higher than the state’s unemployment rate during the Great Recession in 2008. 

The highest unemployment rate on record in the state was around 12 percent in 1982, and Williams says Wisconsin is “due to pass that in about a week.” 

He said some are holding out hope that this trend will abate with some of the federal relief packages, but he says Wisonsin hasn’t seen any signs of a slowdown yet. 

“This is just a massive increase in unemployment,” he said. “We’ve never seen anything on this scale or evolving this rapidly before.” 

Listen to the webinar here: 

— Wisconsin Medical Society CEO Dr. Bud Chumbley expects Gov. Tony Evers’ “safer at home” order to be extended past April 24 as he looks to improve coordination between health systems to fight COVID-19. 

In a webinar briefing hosted by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, Chumbley noted Wisconsin has far fewer independent doctors with small practices than other states. He estimates nearly 80 percent of doctors in Wisconsin work for a health system rather than having their own independent practice. 

“I think that is an advantage over a state like Texas, where only about 20 percent of physicians work for a system,” he said. “We are trying hard to coordinate them and get them the equipment they need.” 

At the same time, Chumbley said WMS is reaching out to retired physicians to see if they’re willing to volunteer as part of the coronavirus response “if the need arises.” 

“Even if they’re not an ICU physician, they can do home triage, they can do e-visits, they can take over some of the front-line health care for chronic medical physicians,” he said. 

Chumbley also said he expects Evers’ stay-at-home order to be extended past April 24, arguing not enough people are taking the social distancing requirements seriously. 

“I don’t want to be draconian, but I think the only way people are going to take it seriously is when we top 1,000 deaths in the state,” he said. 

 — Wisconsin county health departments are reporting 28 deaths in Wisconsin due to COVID-19, while the state Department of Health Services reports 1,550 confirmed cases. 

Of those confirmed cases, 26 percent have been hospitalized, according to DHS.

Milwaukee County reports 12 deaths and Washington and Ozaukee counties report six deaths total. 

Dane, Sauk and Fond du Lac counties each report two deaths. 

Iron, Waupaca, Waukesha and Rock counties each report one death. 

But the DHS website currently has 24 deaths listed from COVID-19. See more on why state and county numbers differ in an item below. 

DHS numbers show 10 counties have experienced deaths from coronavirus, up from seven counties the day before. And 50 of the state’s 72 counties have at least one confirmed case, up from 48 counties.

Ninety-six percent of people who died from COVID-19 in Wisconsin are over the age of 50, according to DHS. 

Twenty percent of patients who have tested positive for coronavirus are between the ages of 60- 69. This is followed by people ages 50-59 (19 percent) and 40-49 (16 percent).

In Wisconsin, women make up 52 percent of the confirmed cases, but account for 42 percent of deaths. Meanwhile men make up 48 percent of confirmed cases, but account for 58 percent of the total deaths. 

Click here for coronavirus resources and information: 

— The state DHS tally of COVID-19 deaths has been lagging behind county health departments, because the agency only reports the numbers it’s received up until noon every day. 

“Naturally, there would be more test results coming in after our counts are frozen,” said Elizabeth Goodsitt, communications specialist for DHS. “At the same time, counties are free to release their own case counts if and when they choose.” 

For example, if DHS freezes the data for the day before getting the latest figures from a given county, those numbers would only be included in the next state total, according to Goodsitt. 

“That does not mean that ‘County X’ can’t report its case counts before or after the DHS data is frozen and posted,” she said in an email. 

Plus, she noted Wisconsin is a “home rule” state, meaning DHS provides guidance to local health offices, but “what they say or do is their decision based on what they consider best for their individual counties.” 

Another potential cause for the disparity between state- and county-level reporting is that cases sometimes aren’t immediately reported through the state’s official surveillance system. 

“Until they are marked as a case, we cannot include them in our daily updates,” she said. “If there is a delay in reporting in this system, there will be a delay in reporting on our website.” 

— An infectious disease specialist at UW-Madison is calling for more stringent adherence to social distancing guidelines. 

“Of course it’s being practiced, but I don’t know that it’s being practiced at the extent that it needs to be everywhere,” said Dr. Nasia Safdar in a recent webinar organized by the university. 

She noted social distancing works best when it starts before many cases start to arise. And if it’s working, she says that’s no reason to let up. 

“If you start to see very few cases, you don’t say, ‘Oh well, it must be working and I don’t need to do it anymore,’” she said. “This is hard for us, I think, as a community. But on the other hand, it’s also something we can do today without any equipment.” 

As hospitals, health systems and other care providers are desperately gathering up as much personal protective gear as possible, Safdar stressed the importance of everyday citizens doing their part to reduce spread of the coronavirus. 

She said these measures must be stepped up before health systems are overwhelmed with cases. Some projections show the state may need thousands more beds than are currently available over the course of the pandemic. 

“For health systems that are overwhelmed, I think it’s very difficult to contain at that point,” she said. “That’s the whole premise of public health — if we do social distancing and we don’t see a huge rise in Wisconsin, or a huge peak, that is a success story.” 

Safdar also touched on the question of whether people gain immunity to the virus after contracting it and recovering. She noted researchers at UW-Madison are conducting studies focused on that issue. 

She expects recovered patients retain at least “some immunity,” but said scientists don’t know how long that would last or how much protection it would offer. 

“Between our data and those of others around the country, I expect we’ll have an answer to that,” she said. “We just don’t have it yet.” 

See a recording of the webinar: 

— The Tavern League of Wisconsin announced the creation of Community Helping Empower Employers to Remain Successful, a charity for TLW’s 5,000 members in the hospitality industry. 

“Many of our Members aren’t certain what their future holds,” said TLW President Chris Marsicano in a statement. “We are launching C.H.E.E.R.S. Wisconsin to help our members bridge the gap between this closure and the day we can reopen.”

All contributions to CHEERS will be distributed equally to TLW members 30 days after Gov. Tony Evers’ “Safer in Home” order expires. 

“Wisconsin taverns employ thousands and are critical to our state’s economy,” said Marsicano. “Employees depend on the jobs we provide to help pay for college or to raise a family.”

See the release: 

— U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil says he’s focused on “being prudent with taxpayer money” as federal lawmakers consider options for a fourth stimulus package. 

In a webinar hosted by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce yesterday, the Janesville Republican lawmaker said the recently passed $2 trillion stimulus package was “by no means perfect,” but noted swift action was needed amid the current crisis. 

“Now there’s lots of talk in Washington about what is going to be needed next,” he said. “You’ve seen discussions of a $2 trillion infrastructure bill. There’s going to be lots of ideas floating around in the coming days.” 

He’s advocating for a “fact-driven” approach to the federal coronavirus response, to ensure support is going toward impacted workers as well as the U.S. health care system. 

Steil called on business leaders in Wisconsin to make suggestions on what the next stimulus package looks like, so federal legislators can be “responsive but also not wasteful” during the pandemic. 

“We’re going to have to be thoughtful of our total debt load that we’re taking on,” he said. “We just spent $2 trillion; we came into the year with an estimated budget deficit of $1 trillion and that’s likely to grow. And we’re now talking about adding $2 trillion additional to this.” 

In the coming weeks, he said lawmakers will be trying to get a handle on the unemployment rate for states across the country. And he noted publicly traded companies will be posting their first-quarter financial results soon, providing more insight on the impacts of the coronavirus. 

“What we need to do is keep this as tailored as we can so we’re not being wasteful with taxpayer money,” he said. 

Listen to the webinar: 


# New report highlights similarities, differences between Great Recession and COVID-19 economy

# Rexnord’s Todd Adams talks about managing through coronavirus, sees a U or W shaped recovery

# Johnson Controls requires two-week furlough or three-day work week for all U.S. employees, even top execs

# Until further notice: Madison businesses struggle to deal with the coronavirus fallout



– State all milk price averaged $19.10 during February

– State farmers intend to plant more corn, soybean acres in ’20


– Hudson Business Lounge has closed for good

– 75% of hotel rooms in U.S. were empty last week. In Milwaukee area, it’s worse


– You don’t need to leave your groceries in the garage for 3 days


– Wisconsin receives second PPE shipment from federal stockpile

– Pregnant women worry about coronavirus for themselves and baby

– DHS: 1,550 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin


– Gerald Rappaport, longtime Milwaukee hotel manager, dies at 58


– Pewaukee printing company begins manufacturing of face shields


– MU Law Poll finds strong support in state for school, business closings and limits on gatherings

– Joe Biden says Democrats should ‘listen to scientists,’ envisions delaying DNC

– Wisconsin Republicans: COVID-19 package in progress, unclear when action will come


– Milwaukee-area real estate experts predict six-month impact, now working with tenants: Survey

– 11-story Admiral’s Wharf apartments in Walker’s Point pauses for a month


– Burghardt Sporting Goods to make former New Berlin Walmart its new HQ


– Brew City Match to offer $1,200 grants, 0% interest loans to small businesses in certain parts of Milwaukee


– Wisconsin Athletics projects $4 million revenue drop because of COVID-19


– Plans still in place for 2020 Farm Technology Days (for now)


– Milwaukee-area businesses have questions, but say they can adapt if DNC is rescheduled


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

Tavern League of Wisconsin: Announces CHEERS Wisconsin

Lakefront Brewery: Fish fry is back as an online-ordered grab-n-go

Lawrence University: Students volunteer to tutor kids online