THU AM News: WMC says outing businesses with COVID positives would have legal implications; UW Profs find silver lining for businesses in pandemic

— The Department of Health Services confirmed once more the agency has no immediate plans to list businesses with COVID-19 positives on its website.

However, the department has outstanding records requests from journalists and others in which records custodians and the Office of Legal Counsel are making determinations regarding releasing records for specific facility investigations, said DHS spokeswoman Elizabeth Goodsitt.

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce sent a letter to Gov. Tony Evers and DHS Secretary Andrea Palm yesterday outlining the legal implications of releasing information about businesses with employees who have tested positive for COVID-19.

The letter, sent on behalf of WMC by Eimer Stahl LLP Attorney Ryan Walsh, is in response to plans by DHS to release this data either on its website or through responses to open records requests.

WMC argues that the disclosures would violate patient and employment confidentiality and substantial privacy interest under the Fourteenth Amendment. The organization also noted that uncovering the patient identities could result in lawsuits.

During and after a video call with local health departments discussing potential plans to list other facility investigations on its website beyond the skilled nursing facilities, DHS has received feedback about the proposal. Goodsitt said that with that input into account, the department decided it does not have immediate plans to post the information on the website.

“WMC will continue to pursue this matter with DHS as it defends its members, their employees and the business community from the potential economic harm that could come from such a release,” said the organization in a release.

See the release:

Read the letter:

— The coronavirus pandemic opened new windows of opportunity for the business world by creating new problems to solve, showcasing old problems in a new light and making new solutions to old problems available, according to two UW-Madison professors.

“COVID is clearly a disaster,” said business Professor Hart Posen in an alumni association virtual event. “We all wish it didn’t happen, we all wish that as a nation we responded better. Is there a silver lining? My answer is yes.”

New markets like telehealth are a direct result of those windows of opportunity. Before the coronavirus pandemic, several privacy laws meant doctors couldn’t get paid for some virtual checkups and visits.

The need to physically distance paired with ongoing or increased health problems allowed the telehealth market to break into the larger health market, taking up to 15 percent of all patient-doctor visits, Posen said. 

Scott Cook, founder of the online tax filing service Intuit, agreed the pandemic could open up several windows of opportunity for businesses and entrepreneurs to take advantage of right now. 

Cook said business travel will likely be forever changed post-pandemic. The use of virtual conference services like Zoom will likely eclipse physical business travel as borders remain closed and people worry about falling ill from attending in-person conferences.

Read the full story at 

— Milwaukee-based Calypso Lemonade reported 40 percent growth during the first half of 2020. 

The company attributes the increase to its expanded flavor portfolio including Calypso Light, the brand’s first no-sugar, low-calorie offering. 

“We took time to develop and expand our core line-up of lemonades with the launch of Calypso Light in response to the demand from consumers interested in a zero sugar, five calorie lemonade that tastes great,” said David Klavsons, CEO of King Juice Company, Inc., parent of the Calypso brand. “Lights are now being sold in more than 7,000 outlets nationally with distribution building daily and repeat rates exceeding expectations.”

Calypso also reported a record year in 2019, which saw more than 30 percent growth. Klavsons attributes the strong quarters to how well the brand and product is resonating with consumers. 

“We recently achieved a significant milestone and Calypso is now the second largest player in the shelf stable lemonade category, surpassing Lipton Brisk in the latest four and 13-week IRI data,” he noted. 

— AkitaBox announced today it has added AkitaBox Capital Management to its suite of building management software applications. 

This addition comes after conducting research and interviews with customers, in which the Madison-based company identified the need for an application that would empower users to build capital budgets, secure capital funds and create more accurate multi-year capital plans for their facilities. 

“Depending on the size of an organization, it can cost millions of dollars to replace HVAC systems, water chillers, air conditioning units, and other major equipment,” said AkitaBox CEO Matt Miszewski. “AkitaBox Capital Management is designed to empower facilities, operations and portfolio teams to present data-backed reasoning for specific capital budgets needed.” 

AkitaBox Capital Management is powered by RSMeans Data from Gordian, taking the guesswork out of capital planning and giving stakeholders access to critical facility data. 

“Stakeholders can also determine which assets should be replaced now or in the future based on the risk of failure and severity of impact to business operations,” Miszewski said. 

— Northwestern Mutual earned its second consecutive perfect score on the Disability Equality Index, a survey administered by the American Association of People with Disabilities and Disability.

The survey is a national, annual benchmarking tool which reports on corporate disability inclusion policies and practices, and identifies opportunities for continued improvement.

 “We’re on a constant journey to build an inclusive environment, and we’re committed to continuous action to ensure everyone can bring their best self to work, not only for our clients, but for all of us,” said Amy Hanneman, vice president of diversity and inclusion at Northwestern Mutual.

— The state reports 821 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the seven-day average for daily cases to 796, a new record that continues to rise.

The percentage of positive tests per total tests is 5.9 percent, down from 6.6 percent Tuesday, but still above the preferred 5 percent or less.

The new cases bring the cumulative case count to 38,727 and active cases to 7,972.

The number of recovered patients number 29,923 or 77.3 percent, while 2.1 percent of patients have died. Active cases are defined as those still in a 30-day waiting period of symptom onset or diagnosis and account for 20.6 percent of the confirmed cases — a growing percentage as daily new cases rise.

The state received 13,925 total tests yesterday; Wisconsin has a capacity for 24,362 tests per day.

Health care workers account for about 9 percent of confirmed COVID-19 cases at 3,384, 63 more than Tuesday.

Coronavirus patients ages 20-29 accounted for 228 of the new cases and 25 percent or 9,799 of the total confirmed cases. That age group also accounts for eight of the total COVID-19 deaths.

Click here for more coronavirus resources and updates: 

— Fifty-nine Wisconsin counties are ranked high by DHS for COVID-19 activity, up 12 from last week.

Counties seeing both an increased trend in cases and a high burden of cases are Brown, Calumet, Clark, Grant, Iron, Kenosha, Marinette, Milwaukee, Oconto, Outagamie, Ozaukee, Pepin, Pierce, Racine, Sauk and Waukesha.

In terms of infection ratios, Milwaukee County has the state’s largest at 15.4 per 1,000 people. In six days, Milwaukee County added 1,367 new COVID-19 cases to its count, giving the county a cumulative total of 14,679 confirmed cases.

The second-largest infection ratio in the state is in Brown County at 12.9 per 1,000 people. It added 204 new COVID-19 cases in six days for a cumulative total of 3,348 confirmed cases.

Racine County has an infection ratio of 12.4 per 1,000 people and a cumulative total of 2,418 confirmed COVID-19 cases after adding 112 cases in six days. Kenosha County’s infection ratio is 10.9 per 1,000 people and cases number 1,831, an increase of 134 cases in six days.

Walworth (7.9), Rock (6.7) and Trempealeau (6.6) counties follow.

And in terms of cases, Dane County ranks third with 3,242 cumulative confirmed cases — an increase of 471 in six days. It has an infection ratio of 6.1 up from 5.2 last Thursday.

The Northeast, South Central and Southeast Healthcare Emergency Readiness Coalition regions of Wisconsin are also labeled as both having a high case burden and a growing trajectory.

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

— Milwaukee County added one death to Wisconsin’s COVID-19 death toll, bringing the total to 827.

Counties reporting deaths include: Milwaukee (403), Racine (65), Kenosha (47), Brown (44), Waukesha (40), Dane (33), Rock (24), Washington (19), Walworth (18), Ozaukee (16), Grant (13), Winnebago (14), Waupaca (13), Outagamie (9), Clark (7), Fond du Lac (6), Dodge (5), Jefferson (4), Richland (4) and Sheboygan (4).

Door, Forest, Marinette and Sauk counties report three deaths each. Adams, Buffalo, Calumet, Polk and St. Croix counties report two deaths each.

Barron, Bayfield, Burnett, Columbia, Eau Claire, Green, Iron, Jackson, Juneau, Kewaunee, Langlade, Manitowoc, Marathon, Marquette, Monroe, Rusk and Wood counties report one death each.

— DHS took on 135 more facility-wide investigations this week. It’s now conducting 743 statewide.

Non-health care workplaces account for 307 of the current investigations, followed by 231 happening in long-term care facilities.

Long-term care facilities in the state are reporting 343 deaths due to COVID-19, making up 41 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 75 active nursing home investigations.

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

Thirty-three of the investigations are in group housing facilities including correctional facilities, homeless shelters, dormitories and group homes, which have seen 41 COVID-19 deaths, or 5 percent of the state’s total.

Two hundred and twenty-three of the state’s COVID-19 deaths were not linked to group housing facilities, and 220 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 (24) and “other settings” (148). A majority of the investigations are taking place in Milwaukee (135), Brown (99), Waukesha (71), Dane (68) and Kenosha (52) counties.

There have been a total of 1,241 investigations, with 498 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: 


# Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett calls for ‘peacekeeping’ as police seek DNC equipment

# DHS: COVID-19 case increase due to ‘significant community spread,’ not more testing



– Farm Support Program Checks Are In The Mail 

– Wisconsin Plays Big Role In Brown Swiss Breeders 


– Region’s college presidents urge Barrett to allow in-person instruction this fall 

– ‘It’s long overdue’: Jenkins will be Madison’s first Black superintendent

– Amid Nationwide Calls To Remove Police From Schools, Platteville Reexamines Plan To Add An Officer This Fall 


– Biden announces $2 trillion climate plan  

– DNR cleaning up manure spill in northeastern Wisconsin


– These industries were approved for the most PPP loans in Wisconsin 


– New Froedtert Hospital leaders stem from long-term diversity initiative 


– Audit: Too much, not enough sent to Wisconsin unemployed


– Chapter 11 filing expected from Briggs & Stratton, analysts say 


– DNC security budget still over $40 million despite major downsizing of convention 


– Pick ‘n Save parent Kroger to issue mask mandate 

– JCPenney to slash about 1,000 jobs, close 152 stores 

– Walmart to require shoppers to wear masks at all stores 

– Best Buy to require customers to wear masks 


– MMAC launches awards program recognizing area companies for response to COVID-19 


– Sign of solidarity: Badgers to wear black crest logos 

– ROC Ventures adds additional sanitation to Ballpark Commons 

– No fans this year for Packers training camp and preseason home games 


– Milwaukee Food & City Tours partners with Wisconsin State Fair 


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