THU AM News: MKE Tech Hub Coalition celebrates one-year anniversary; UW System partners with feds to offer free COVID-19 testing to public

— The Milwaukee Tech Hub Coalition is celebrating its one-year anniversary today, recognizing the past 12 months of an overarching theme: collaboration.

Last year at this time, the Tech Hub kicked off with six initial founding members to come together around doubling the technology talent in the Milwaukee region. By today, Milwaukee Tech Hub Coalition CEO Kathy Henrich said 57 organizations will be centered around the coalition’s goal, including its most recent addition, Milwaukee Tool.

“We are thrilled to have them along with another eight community members that we’ll be announcing as well,” Henrich told She added that nonprofits, first-year start-ups, service providers and large companies have all joined the Tech Hub throughout the year to support the technology growth of the region. 

Not only does membership include a financial contribution — an important resource, Henrich noted — but each member is also actively involved with the coalition. The expansion of membership aligns organizations in the region around the goal of building tech talent. It also adds elbow grease to progress the Tech Hub’s mission.

“As a small coalition, frankly we have three full-time people and three interns and we’ve worked with partners, we’ll never transform this region by ourselves,” she said. Today, the Milwaukee Tech Hub Coalition will also announce its newest community board member, she added.

The event is hosted using Milwaukee-based SignalWire. The virtual venue platform’s latest product, SignalWire Work, is as close to an in-person event that Henrich has found. Supported by Wisconn Valley Ventures, SignalWire allows individuals to self-navigate between rooms, go in and out as they please or ask someone to join them in a room for a sidebar conversation — activities that one would be able to do at an in-person conference.

On the platform, Henrich will update event-goers of the Tech Hub’s progress. She noted that doubling the tech talent in Milwaukee is an aspirational goal, let alone something that could be accomplished in one year. Henrich explained it would lead Milwaukee to be larger than the tech region of Portland and would require the equivalent of three Foxconns to come into the region.

“The bigger issue is: are we moving forward to meeting the needs of the employers that are already here while we do this?” she said. 

The year’s successes, including virtual internship programs, partnerships with K-12 schools and recruiting technology companies into the region, are long-term, structural supports needed to reach the Tech Hub’s goal, Henrich explained.

“The critical piece here is that a small nonprofit cannot change the region alone. It takes the collaboration of government, educational institutions, nonprofits, corporations, startups. We consider ourselves a startup, where the initial funding is ‘seed money’ to help initiate progress, but true transformation will require collective investment,” she said. “Everything we’ve done, we’ve done in partnership with other people.” 

Register for the 10 a.m. anniversary celebration here: 

The Milwaukee Tech Hub Coalition will be featured on Advancements TV on Nov. 21: 

— The UW System in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will establish free COVID-19 surge testing sites available to the public on all 26 of its campuses. 

System President Tommy Thompson in a virtual briefing yesterday told reporters this is the first such university-federal partnership of its kind in the country. And if this “big, expansive” effort proves to be successful, he fully expects other states and university systems to follow suit. 

Thompson said all Wisconsinites “down to age five” are encouraged to come to campuses and take one of the 250,000 rapid-response tests provided by HHS. He hopes this will help prevent community spread, both among off-campus students and local residents and identify and isolate those “super spreaders” who are infected with the virus but show no symptoms. 

“This is something that I think is going to help try and control the terrible infectious spiral, this fire that we have in the state of Wisconsin right now,” he said. “So this is really a big, expansive, broad cooperative effort.” 

The state Department of Health Services will also provide some 30,000 tests to the surge sites, according to a System press release. 

The former governor and HHS secretary added he anticipates it should take around five weeks for campuses to complete the surge with all tests. But how long the program lasts will ultimately depend on the testing supply and demand. 

Some testing sites may start opening as early as today, according to Thompson, though he said he expects most to begin next week. 

See more: 

— The Department of Workforce Development’s unemployment backlog fell to 7.25 percent from just under 7.5 percent last week.

That’s equal to about 75,900 unique claimants held up in adjudication by one or more weeks due to multiple issues, or 1,151 Wisconsinites who have gotten their UI checks in the last seven days. 

DWD has paid about 544,433 claimants over $4.24 billion since March 15.

— Workplaces outside the health care industry account for 841 of the Department of Health Services’ 2,778 statewide public health investigations.

The state is conducting 190 more facility-wide COVID-19 investigations than last week. 

Long-term care facilities make up 656 of the investigations. Those facilities are reporting 618 deaths due to COVID-19, making up 29 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.

The state has 272 active nursing home investigations. About 90 percent of confirmed COVID-19 patients who have died in the state were age 60 or older.

Education facilities account for 596 investigations.

The state is also conducting 405 investigations in “other settings,” which according to DHS include adult day care centers, restaurants, event spaces and religious settings.

One hundred and sixty-five of the investigations are in group housing facilities, including correctional facilities, homeless shelters, dormitories and group homes, which have seen 62 COVID-19 deaths or 3 percent of the state’s total. DHS marks 898 deaths as “unknown” meaning they may or may not have occurred at a long-term care or group housing facility.

DHS is conducting 116 investigations in health care facilities.

Counties with the highest numbers of investigations include Milwaukee (333), Waukesha (250), Dane (244), Marathon (149) and Kenosha (133).

There have been a total of 5,478 investigations, with 2,700 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: 

— A split state Supreme Court rejected the Evers administration’s request to take over the appeal in a challenge to DHS Secretary Andrea Palm’s order limiting public, indoor gatherings.

The case is now before the 3rd District Court of Appeals, which had issued an order preventing enforcement of the directive, which expires tomorrow. The state DOJ, representing Gov. Tony Evers, had argued the state Supreme Court should take over the appeal to resolve whether Palm had the authority to issue the order.

But in a 4-3 order yesterday, the court declined to take over the case. The majority didn’t offer a reason why.

But Justice Rebecca Dallet in her dissent argued the petition met the criteria to bypass the 3rd District and hear the case directly and it wasn’t “a close call.”

She added, “We have a responsibility to provide certainty in the law, particularly in the middle of a destabilizing pandemic.”

She was joined in the dissent by Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and Jill Karofsky.

The Tavern League of Wisconsin originally challenged the order, saying it violated the court’s May decision overturning an extended stay-at-home directive Palm issued. The court in that case ruled the stay-at-home order should’ve been issued through the administrative rules process. The Tavern League argued the indoor limits similarly should’ve gone through that process.

“While it didn’t end up in the state Supreme Court today or tomorrow, I’m very confident that we’ll end up there in the not-too-distant future,” said the governor’s chief legal counsel, Ryan Nilsestuen. “The longer that we’re fighting about it in court, the less time we have to implement measures that we know will save lives.”

Read the order:

— Meanwhile, the state health department’s weekly surveillance shows all of Wisconsin’s 72 counties ranking “very high” for COVID-19 activity.

“That is a stark statistic all by itself,” Palm said. The “very high” burden threshold is 350 confirmed cases for every 100,000 residents. Palm noted that some counties were over 2,000 cases per 100,000 people.

Wisconsin reported a record 5,935 new COVID-19 cases yesterday. That brought the seven-day average of daily confirmed cases to a record 4,839, a 531 percent increase in eight weeks, Palm said.

In every region in the state, hospitals are reporting staffing and hospital bed strains and peak census counts for patients, Palm said.

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Wisconsin are at a record 1,747, and intensive care patients are at a record 360, according to the Wisconsin Hospital Association’s hospital dashboard.

For more of the most relevant news on the coronavirus outbreak, reports on groundbreaking health research in Wisconsin and links to top stories, sign up today for the free daily Health Care Report from and

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