THU AM News: Minneapolis Reserve lead says Congress needs to act aggressively, generously on second stimulus; State reports record single-day COVID-19 deaths

— With 13.5 million people in the nation unemployed, Minneapolis Federal Reserve head says Congress needs to act “aggressively and generously” on a second stimulus package like it did with the first — “putting money in the hands of the tens of millions who lost their jobs through no fault of their own.”

Prior to the arrival of COVID-19, the economy was robust: wages were ticking up, more people were joining the workforce and fewer were leaving, according to Neel Kashkari, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

The national unemployment rate was 4.4 percent in March, Wisconsin was at 3.1 percent, and it appeared the country was reaching maximum employment.

“Six months earlier, we were not thinking about a pandemic, then COVID hit almost out of the blue,” Kashkari said.

Kashkari, along with Brian Andrew, chief investment officer of Johnson Financial Group, discussed the pandemic’s economic effects in a Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce briefing.

“Just to put a finer point on the effects of COVID, the second quarter GDP number, which measures the pace of growth of the U.S. economy, was revised to down negative 31.7 percent,” Andrew said.

Read the full story at 

— Wisconsin reported 27 deaths due to COVID-19, a new single-day record.

Meanwhile, hospitalizations have nearly doubled over the past two weeks.

The latest numbers from the state show 1,327 people have now died in Wisconsin due to COVID-19 with the death rate remaining at 1.1 percent of those with a confirmed case.

Milwaukee County, the state’s most populous, has reported the most deaths at 532. Racine was a distant second at 98, followed by Waukesha at 90, Kenosha at 68 and Brown at 65.

Nine counties in Wisconsin haven’t reported any COVID-19 deaths: Chippewa, Crawford, Douglas, Green Lake, Iowa, Lafayette, Menominee, Pepin and Polk.

— The Wisconsin Hospital Association reported a new record of 683 patients as of yesterday, up 37 from Tuesday.

“Where in Wisconsin is this all happening? The answer is everywhere,” said Dr. Mark Kaufman, WHA’s chief medical officer. “No part of the state is untouched.”

In two weeks, the Fox Valley, north central, northeast, northwest and western regions of Wisconsin had their patient counts more than double.

Southeastern Wisconsin, which was seeing a declining hospitalization rate, is now seeing its patient count rise. South central Wisconsin, which had been seeing level hospitalization rates, now has set a new record.

“The bottom line is we are doing very poorly compared to other states and to our previous performance,” Kaufman said in a Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce briefing.

Hospitalizations lag behind new cases by roughly 10 days — that’s the time it can take between the onset of COVID-19 illness and a possible hospitalization. Patients needing to be hospitalized tend to stay for up to two weeks, Kaufman said.

He cited COVID fatigue, lack of collective compliance with health measures, the return of in-person school instruction, and private gatherings as the root causes for the increase in COVID-19 cases statewide.

The resulting uptick in hospitalizations has caused hospitals to approach “peak capacity,” he said. Hospitals are accepting admissions and managing them on a case-by-case basis, implementing previously developed contingency plans.

“We need to come together and we all need to row in the same direction: citizens, businesses, government and providers,” Kaufman said, adding that masking, physical distancing and practicing good personal hygiene all work to control the pandemic.

If not, Kaufman paints a grim picture: more patients and deaths, more pinch points with hospital resources, and more delays in patient care for conditions not related to COVID-19.

“I believe that the economy will worsen as we all have to hunker down even further. There will be more business failures and more personal financial failures,” he said. “Closing of schools will become more common and societal institutions and gatherings and things that are going on now, such as potentially Big 10 football, will all be shut down.”

WMC President and CEO Kurt Bauer praised businesses for following best practices and being responsible for their employees.

“But we’re not just business leaders, we’re community leaders,” he said. “And we need to use the influence we have over our employees to emphasize and reinforce that your employees take the same precautions at home and at play to protect themselves, their family, their friends, their coworkers and of course their community.”

Bauer added that hospitalizations are a critical metric to look at since the basis of the governor’s Safer at Home order in March that shut down the economy was to prevent overwhelming health care systems.

“From my perspective, it is crunch time in Wisconsin,” Kaufman said. “It is within our power to control this pandemic. We know what will work and we know what we need to do. We need leaders to lead and we need to all come together and follow the science.”

See the WHA data dashboard:

See more on Wisconsin’s COVID-19 status below.

— With a $31.8 million federal grant, the joint Wisconsin-Minnesota Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago Passenger Rail Project is poised to expand the connection between Midwest economic hubs.

The project will add an additional daily round-trip between the Twin Cities, La Crosse, Milwaukee, Chicago and points in-between, along the existing long-distance Amtrak Empire Builder route. The service will be an extension of one of the existing Amtrak Hiawatha round trips.

“Just as important is the enhanced service for residents in the many rural communities,” Department of Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson said. “They will have increased travel options, with better reliability and on-time performance.”

The grant application received broad support from communities, stakeholders, business groups, state legislators, as well as members of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation, according to the DOT’s release.

The project will increase the existing rail service on the corridor from one round-trip daily to two daily round-trips. The new round-trip will have a shorter travel time and greater on-time performance and reliability for regional trips.

It will also double schedule options making more regional trips viable by rail, support tourism efforts on route and support communities’ ability to attract and retain jobs and business through improved connectivity.  

The federal dollars are the final piece of federal support needed to implement this service. The states and Amtrak need to provide $21.2 million in matching funds in order to accept the award.

— Wisconsin is one of 43 states that reached a settlement with Anthem stemming from the 2014 data breach involving 78.8 million Americans — more than 1.7 million being Wisconsinites. 

Of the $39.5 million settlement announced yesterday by Attorney General Josh Kaul, Wisconsin will receive $141,970. In addition to the payment, Anthem has also agreed to a series of data security and good governance provisions designed to strengthen its practices going forward.

“Data breaches can cause long-term harm to consumers. Corporations that collect people’s personal information must carefully safeguard it,” Kaul said in a statement.

In February 2015, Anthem disclosed that cyber attackers had infiltrated its systems beginning in February 2014, using malware installed through a phishing email. The attackers were ultimately able to gain access to Anthem’s data warehouse, where they harvested names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, healthcare identification numbers, home addresses, email addresses, phone numbers and employment information.

Under the settlement, Anthem has agreed to a series of provisions designed to strengthen its security practices going forward. These include implementing a security program, new security requirements, employee training and third-party security assessments among other things.

— Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce President Zach Brandon is urging voters to “vote yes” to the Madison Metropolitan School District referenda totaling $350 million.

The chamber board is lending its organizational support to the effort. Brandon serves as co-chair of the Vote Yes 2 Invest campaign supporting the referenda, which he said is a much-needed investment in Madison’s public schools.

“Putting resources into facilities, technology and programming now will help address pervasive disparities exacerbated by the COVID-19 outbreak,” Brandon said. “We need strong public schools to develop, retain and attract a talented workforce and maintain our economic competitiveness. This initiative is important to our students and to ensure Madison as a community is future-ready.”

The first of two referenda comes with a $317 million price tag. It will allow for infrastructure and environmental improvements to Madison’s four public high schools. It will also consolidate Capital High under one roof and build a new elementary school in the Rimrock area.

The second referendum is $33 million for funding equity projects, arts and extracurricular activities and recruitment and retention of highly qualified educators. 

“By nearly every metric, Madison’s potential is among the highest in the country. That potential will never be realized if we do not invest in the potential of our children,” Brandon said. “The stress of this moment has shown that the existing gaps are more challenging than previously known and that we, as a community, cannot wait for help from the state or federal government.”

— Workplaces outside the health care industry account for 440 of the Department of Health Services’ facility-wide COVID-19 public health investigations. 

DHS is conducting 166 more investigations than last week, for a total of 1,522 active investigations statewide.

Long-term care facilities make up 344 of the investigations. Those facilities are reporting 454 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 145 active nursing home investigations. About 89 percent of confirmed COVID-19 patients who have died in the state were age 60 or older.

The state is also conducting 324 investigations in “other settings,” which according to DHS include adult day care centers, restaurants, event spaces and religious settings. 

Two hundred and sixty investigations are taking place in educational facilities.

Eighty-eight of the investigations are in group housing facilities including correctional facilities, homeless shelters, dormitories and group homes, which have seen 51 COVID-19 deaths or 4 percent of the state’s total. DHS marks 435 deaths as “unknown” meaning they may or may not have occured at a long-term care or group housing facility. 

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. The department noted the information is being constantly updated. 

DHS is conducting 66 investigations in health care facilities. 

Counties with the highest numbers of investigations include: Milwaukee (186), Dane (135), Kenosha (109), Brown (105), Waukesha (98) and Outagamie (89). 

See a breakdown of active public health investigations by county here

— The state health department’s weekly surveillance update marks over half of Wisconsin’s 72 counties as “very high” for COVID-19 activity.

DHS ranks 27 as “high,” predominantly in the northwest and southeast part of the state, and 45 as “very high.”

The state as a whole has a “very high” case burden with a rate greater than 100 cases per 100,000 residents. Wisconsin also has a growing trajectory of COVID-19 cases — a 24 percent increase over last week. 

Only Polk county has a “moderately high” burden of cases, but is still ranked high for coronavirus activity.


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– USDA sees 2020 U.S. wheat crop at 1.8 billion bushels 

– Unique Apples – While They Last 

– Shoring Up Local Processing Options 

– Smith to Lead UW-Madison Nutrient, Pest Management Program 


– UW-Madison student government declares ‘no confidence’ in UW Police Department

– $500,000 gift to MATC from former Milwaukee County executive Chris Abele targets equity 

– Why one education expert predicts colleges will resist change, despite Covid-19 


– E-Bird Goes Over One Million 


– FluGen CEO talks Covid-19 vaccine development in Bytes with the Beat event 

– 42 Percent Of All Native American COVID-19 Cases In State Were Reported In September 


– Madison’s CMFG Ventures leads $10M investment round for Medicare insurance agency 


– In September, region’s manufacturing sector had its best growth month since June 2019 


– With COVID-19 cases spiking in Brown County, local officials call for caution ahead of Trump rally Saturday in Green Bay

– Powder keg: Right-wing activists, armed with guns, increase protest tensions as Election Day approaches


– NASCAR Cup Series race coming to Road America next year 


– NanoAffix Science one of six Wisconsin companies to get state and federal funds to help commercialize products 


– Marcus Theatres temporarily closes 17 of previously reopened theaters 


– Dockless electric scooters could return to Milwaukee streets in 2021 

– CarMax planning new Toyota dealership building in Bristol 


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