THU AM News: Wisconsin Beef Council says Trump’s meat plant order provides some certainty; Salm Partners reports 35 employees infected with COVID-19

— Wisconsin Beef Council Executive Director Tammy Vaasen says President Trump’s executive order mandating that meat plants stay open will likely provide some certainty for the industry. 

But at the same time, she pointed to “a number of unknowns” with the order, which was signed Tuesday. 

“I’m uncertain at this point how this executive order is going to be implemented at the plant level, while allowing those plants to maintain balance and allowing the workforce to remain healthy,” Vaasen told 

Numerous meatpacking plants around the country have reported outbreaks among employees and their families, and many have shut down including the JBS Packerland facility in Green Bay. The plant had 262 employees test positive for COVID-19 and 86 other cases have been linked to the facility. Other meat plants have reduced production in order to comply with social distancing requirements. 

Vaasen explained that these challenges at packing plants are causing beef farmers to keep animals longer than anticipated before moving them through the supply chain. 

“That puts a financial burden on farmers due to increased feed and maintenance costs,” she said.

Read the full story at 

— Salm Partners, a meatpacking company with multiple facilities in Brown County, is reporting 35 of its employees are infected with COVID-19 after conducting widespread testing. 

The company has around 600 employees, and 346 tests were conducted. The testing was not mandatory, and the population being tested was asymptomatic. In a release, the company stresses that “there has been no confirmed evidence that individuals contracted the virus in the workplace.” 

“We felt that testing would help identify people who carry the virus but show no symptoms and help our partners feel safe that the majority of people they’re working with have tested negative for the virus,” said Keith Lindsey, company CEO. 

Salm Partners is one of several meat plants in the Green Bay area that have had dozens of employees test positive for the virus, though JBS Packerland and American Foods Group had significantly higher numbers of confirmed cases. At least 545 cases of COVID-19 have been linked to those two companies, making up more than half of the county’s 968 confirmed cases. 

See the release: 

See an earlier related story: 

— Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce says its “Back to Business” plan will need legislative approval and be signed into law by the governor in order to be enacted.

Today, legislators are hosting a public hearing on the plan featuring testimonies from WMC members from a variety of industries. 

Scott Manley, WMC’s executive vice president of government relations argued the plan’s regional approach to reopening the state is better at mitigating risk than Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide approach.

“One of the aspects of this plan that’s really helpful is that it’s very much customizable, and it is by no means a one-size-fits-all approach to recognizing risk and mitigating risk,” he said. “It’s customized because it assigns risk based on circumstances unique to a local county or region, instead of one-size-fits-all approach.” 

However, on Monday, Evers told reporters that the hotspot situation in Brown County and other counties in the state “underscores the importance of taking a statewide approach to ‘Safer at Home’ right now.”

“We’ll always keep an open mind to those issues, but right now means right now,” he said.

Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes said today in a Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce webinar that while “WMC’s plan is very thoughtful about how to open on a regional basis,” it still means that adequate testing and contact tracing need to be in place. 

See WMC’s release of Back to Business:

See an outline of the plan:

See the presentation:

— WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes expressed optimism that Wisconsin has a “tremendous opportunity” to come out of the coronavirus pandemic better than before — if businesses are willing to stay innovative. 

In a Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce webinar yesterday, Hughes used personal protective equipment and COVID-19 test production as an example of how manufacturers in the state adjusted to coronavirus.

“It’s not necessarily that that’s our next industry, but we need to learn from ‘Wow, how did you innovate so quickly, how did you make that happen?’” she said. “We need to realize that’s a real strength in Wisconsin, in Dane County and the rest of Wisconsin. We know how to fix things, we know how to find solutions and move forward.”

Hughes noted that Dane County’s reputation as an “innovation culture” could be expanded throughout the rest of the state where Wisconsin has a more “traditional” economy.  

She also said companies may want to mitigate the risk of having supply chains in China when the pandemic is over, which could be an opportunity for Wisconsin’s “strong manufacturing face” to be a “stronghold within the United States to supply that supply chain.”

“I think Wisconsin has a tremendous opportunity to learn from this and to move forward,” said Hughes. “I worry about falling backwards to the old normal. I want the new normal.”

— More coronavirus deaths and cases are being reported in Wisconsin.

The Department of Health Services reports the state COVID-19 death toll at 308 — up eight people from the last count.

Confirmed cases rose 231 since Tuesday, bringing total confirmed cases to 6,520.

DHS’s hospital dashboard also reports 350 COVID patients in hospitals statewide, a decrease of one from Tuesday’s 351, and above the week’s average of 346 patients.

With data provided from DHS, found that Wisconsin’s share of positive cases per number of total tests is on its first day of decline, after a spike Tuesday. The Badger Bounce Back plan has a goal of a two-week decline in daily positive test results as a share of total tests.

The numbers show 11.7 percent of total tests came back positive on Saturday, followed by Sunday (9.7), Monday (7.6), Tuesday (8.6) and Wednesday (6.9).

— DHS is conducting 187 facility-wide investigations for COVID-19. Ninety-three of those are long-term care facilities.

DHS defines long-term care facilities as nursing homes, community-based residential facilities and residential care apartment complexes. 

Residents in long-term care facilities account for 8 percent of COVID-19 confirmed cases and 37 percent of deaths. 

According to DHS, among the 93 public health investigations in long-term care facilities, 45 have fewer than five confirmed cases. The average number of confirmed cases per facility is six and cases range from one to 54.

Group housing facilities such as correctional facilities, homeless shelters, dormitories and group homes account for 25 of those 187 investigations. Three percent of confirmed cases were tied to group housing facilities as well as 3 percent of deaths. 

Forty-nine percent of confirmed cases are unknown to be in a long-term or group housing facility while 37 percent of deaths are unknown to be in those facilities.

Eleven investigations are in health care facilities, 48 in work settings and 10 are listed as “other.”

According to DHS Secretary Andrea Palm, every positive test begins a case investigation with contact tracing. Positive tests can trigger a facility wide investigation. It takes a single positive test in a long-term care facility to start investigation. It takes two or more positive tests to investigate group housing, healthcare facilities or workplaces. 

You can find the DHS dashboard here with a breakdown of investigations by setting and region: 

— Of the state’s 6,520 cumulative confirmed cases, an estimated 45 percent have recovered from COVID-19. 

That’s based on the number of confirmed cases who have at least documentation of resolved symptoms, documentation of release from public health isolation or 30 days since symptom onset or diagnosis. Fifty percent of patients are still in that 30-day period.

Of the state’s confirmed cases, 23 percent were hospitalized, 6 percent received intensive care and 5 percent have died, according to DHS.

Counties reporting deaths include Milwaukee (177), Dane (22), Waukesha (16), Racine (12), Kenosha (11), Ozaukee (9), Walworth (8), Grant (6), Rock (6), Clark (4) and Washington (4). 

Brown, Fond du Lac and Sauk counties report three deaths each.

Door, Outagamie, Richland and Sheboygan counties report two deaths each.

Adams, Bayfield, Buffalo, Columbia, Dodge, Iron, Jackson, Juneau, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Marathon, Marinette, Marquette, Monroe, Waupaca and Winnebago counties report one death each.

Sixty-six of Wisconsin’s 72 counties have confirmed cases.

Patients over the age of 50 account for about 49 percent of confirmed cases, 78 percent of hospitalizations, 83 percent of intensive care patients and 95 percent of deaths.

Nineteen percent of patients who have tested positive for coronavirus are between the ages of 50-59. This is followed by people 40-49 (17 percent) and 30-39 (16 percent).

Fifteen percent of confirmed cases are healthcare workers, while 29 percent are unknown.

In Wisconsin, women make up 51 percent of the confirmed cases and account for 40 percent of deaths due to COVID-19. Meanwhile, men make up 49 percent of confirmed cases, but account for 60 percent of deaths.

The African American community makes up 23 percent of the state’s confirmed cases, but account for 33 percent of deaths due to COVID-19. 

Click here for coronavirus resources and information: 

— Certain high-risk COVID-19 patients at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee will be treated with redemsevir, which has shown promising results in clinical trials. 

A recent international study of the drug found that patients treated with redemsevir recovered more than 30 percent faster than patients who received a placebo. 

After being enrolled into the “expanded access program” through Gilead Sciences, which makes the drug, Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin will be using the antiviral medication on a “limited number of patients,” according to a release. 

Eligible patients must meet certain parameters, and Gilead is only distributed a “limited supply” of the medication to participating care providers.

See the release: 

— The state Department of Workforce Development has paid out more than $290 million in unemployment benefits since March 15, and now is processing more than 40,000 applications for new pandemic assistance, according to the agency.

A DWD release shows claimants in the state have filed nearly 1.2 million weekly unemployment claims since Gov. Tony Evers declared a public health emergency, and about 750,000 of those have been paid.

DWD calculates the number of claims over the past five weeks are “roughly equivalent” to the number of claims processed in a normal eight-month period.

Meanwhile, the agency has received 40,702 applications for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance funding after starting to accept applications last week. The temporary PUA program provides unemployment benefits to individuals who don’t qualify for typical unemployment insurance, such as independent contractors and self-employed people.

And DWD began issuing Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation payments today, which provide a $600 boost per week to unemployment benefits.

See the release:


# Bold Coast Capital shuts down

# Husky Energy reports $1.7B in losses due to coronavirus, sinking global demand

# Wisconsin suspends fees, penalties for missed rent during coronavirus emergency

# Dells, north woods discourage summer trips as Door County eyes Safer at Home end; Robin Vos believes travel can be safe



– Online championship cheese auction raises $93,000

– Wisconsin remains top cheese producing state in U.S.


– State receiving nearly $32M in affordable-housing tax credits


– Milwaukee County could see $17M sales tax shortfall in 2020 due to Covid-19: Policy Forum


– UW-Madison announces furloughs to address $100M shortfall caused by COVID-19 pandemic

– UW-Madison orders furloughs for most employees as COVID-19 keeps campus mostly closed

– Deadline for state FFA officer applications extended


– ‘It’s a pain I can’t even describe’: Milwaukee woman shares her experience with COVID-19

– Lack of pandemic surge at Milwaukee-area hospitals contributing to financial pain

– Advocate Aurora to dole out $15 million in special employee cash awards

– Froedtert to test promising antiviral drug remdesivir on coronavirus patients

– MACC Fund receives $1 million gift to fund research at Medical College of Wisconsin, UW Carbone Cancer Center


– Frontdesk secures $6.8 million in funding


– Hertz lays off 38 employees in Milwaukee


– New cell phone data shows how ‘Safer At Home’ is affecting movement in Wisconsin


– Vos, Fitzgerald say they want to meet with Gov. Evers on regional reopening plan

– Republicans praise Evers’ spending cuts and call for more

– Gov. Evers asks State Supreme Court to dismiss ‘Safer At Home’ challenge


– Milwaukee properties with highest assessed values, and those with the biggest increases, in 2020

– Downtown Racine hotel, apartment project’s land sale pushed to fall


– County leaders want details on COVID cases at Cudahy plant

-OSHA will oversee opening of meatpacking plants following Trump order


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