THU AM News: Guard members embrace pandemic mission, bring testing to rural Wisconsin; State’s industries continue to “withstand blows” of COVID-19

— BOSCOBEL — Jordan Beck is largely hidden by a surgical mask, faceshield, plastic gown and surgical gloves. The only visible reminders that Beck is with the Wisconsin National Guard are slate-colored pants tucked into tan boots sticking out the bottom of all the personal protective equipment.

Beck, an operational safety non-commissioned officer and healthcare specialist from Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 120th Field Artillery, spent one September day walking from a field tent to the line of cars with a clean swab and then back again with a specimen. The route for those tan boots from the tent to the drive-through testing lane in southwestern Wisconsin’s Boscobel was labeled “the hot zone.” 

The 23-year-old Illinois native has served in the National Guard for over four years. His primary role at the Guard’s Boscobel mission was to put the cotton swab halfway up each nostril, spin it around several times, and then place the swab into a tube of saline solution for preservation. 

Beck’s witty personality and joke-telling played well with Grant County residents waiting inside their cars, trucks, and even ATVs, for their test. Before he sticks the swab into the driver’s nose, Beck explains the testing procedure “to help reduce that anxiety and prepare them for the testing process itself.”

His fellow team member puts the specimen tube — equipped with a label of identification —  into a specimen bag labeled “biohazard.” That bag goes into a cooler of ice. At the end of the day, that cooler is sent to Madison where it is tested at Exact Sciences. Those who were tested that day could expect to get their results back within 48 hours via email and telephone.

Beck’s primary specialty is combat medic, he told as he slid on a new pair of surgical gloves for the next vehicle. His training is in trauma, traumatic brain injury and burns.

“But when I pair that with my previous experience working in hospitals or ambulance services or fire departments, that’s how I became so comfortable with interacting with patients,” he said.

Read the full story at 

— The Wisconsin Hospital Association says personal protective equipment numbers are better for hospitals statewide, but COVID-19 testing supplies are not. 

WHA data show that nine hospitals have less than a seven-day supply of goggles, six have a limited supply of N95 masks, 20 have a limited supply of gowns, and 12 hospitals have limited paper medical masks. These are a slight increase compared to the week before, according to the WHA’s dashboard.

“The PPE situation is much better than it was months ago,” said Dr. Mark Kaufman, chief medical officer of the Wisconsin Hospital Association “Even with the reopening of non-COVID care.”

He said in general, hospitals have shored up supply lines and have received help through the state in getting federal supplies from the federal HHS and FEMA. Kaufman noted some occasional shortages in surgical gowns or gloves exist, and hospitals are still using conservation techniques recommended by the CDC for N95 masks.

Health care workers continue to account for about 8 percent of confirmed COVID-19 cases at 6,716 after adding 74 cases over the past two days, according to the state’s Department of Health Services. 

“The good news is as (hospitalizations) go up and down… all Wisconsin hospitals really still have plenty of capacity supplies — personnel, ventilators, ICU beds, all those things — to handle what’s happening now as well as to take care of patients with non covid healthcare concerns,” Kaufman said. 

What’s going to determine the course of the pandemic in the state over the next few months, he said, is the accountability of everyone to wear a mask, social distance and practice good personal hygiene. This will be especially challenging as temperatures cool and people spend more time indoors with one another. 

With cold weather conditions favorable for transmitting COVID-19, hospitals are still under pressure to maintain testing supplies.

“Testing shortages are still definitely an issue for Wisconsin hospitals,” Kaufman said. “Some hospitals are still struggling to maintain adequate testing supplies, and they need those for their patients and for their staff. So testing remains an issue for hospitals.” 

While community-based testing sites run by local public health test large numbers of patients who are often asymptomatic, hospitals focus on those with symptoms. The state has a relationship with Exact Sciences for COVID-19 testing kits, while “hospitals are sourcing testing wherever they can,” he said.

See the WHA data dashboard: 

— Old National Bank took early action during the COVID-19 pandemic for commercial clients, including deferrals on loan payments, especially for the retail and hospitality sectors.

Wisconsin Region CEO Kevin Anderson said in a Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce briefing that he noticed the impact of COVID-19 in Wisconsin “was not as great” as it had been in other parts of the county. Old National gave out fewer deferrals in the Midwest than it did on the coasts.

“We continue to be able to withstand blows here in Wisconsin that perhaps in some of our footprint that may be more dependent on a particular industry or sector,” he said. For example, he noted that states with “lots of automobile manufacturing plants and industries that support those plants” are dealing with a “much deeper and impactful slowdown” than Wisconsin.

Anderson noted bright spots in light manufacturing that continue to support medical technology and health care vitals that are benefiting from the focus of trying to push back on the pandemic.

“(They) have not only seen stabilization, but growth,” he said. “So those firms that support that space continue to do extremely well.”

However, the hospitality sector — hotels, restaurants and vendors that support those industries — continue to struggle. Anderson recognized the Paycheck Protection Program for being helpful to the economy and clients.

“The speed of that and the directness of it has really been godsend for our commercial clients,” he said. Now that the program is starting to wind down and businesses are working to get those grants forgiven, Old National Bank is focusing on the Mainstreet Lending Program for larger enterprises. 

“I think it is very important, even going into next year, that government support for entrepreneurs and business owners should continue,” he said. “It may not have to be as broad as the PPP, but I think the effects of COVID-19 are going to follow us into next year, and we should be prepared to continue to support small business and entrepreneurs.”

Meanwhile, Old National will see some long-term changes of its own with the pandemic accelerating the use of digital and online banking by more than 50 percent just in Wisconsin. 

“We believe those behaviors by the clients, those new ways of interacting with us, are going to stick,” he said, adding that the Old National banking centers will be used for more complex transactions or “relationship-building transactions” as opposed to a simple deposit or transfer.

“That is here to stay, and we’re no different than other financial institutions. We’re continuing to invest millions of dollars in providing our clients with the most digital capacity that we can.” 

— As the economy moves into 2021, Ryan Festerling, president and chief operating officer of QPS Employment Group, says story-telling will be the key to bringing skilled labor to the manufacturing sector.

QPS has 55 offices in seven states across the Midwest with a 90 percent focus on a broad spectrum of light manufacturing and the rest for office and professional operations.

“We’ve got this fairly high employment number, but yet a ton of people sitting on the sidelines,” Festerling told viewers in a Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce webinar. “We have almost 3,000 jobs right now that if we had the right people, we could place them tomorrow.”

He said that companies have money to invest, but the “broad brush” of extra unemployment money kept unemployed people, in the hospitality industry for example, on the sidelines. QPS is working with companies to market the culture of the workforce — “the highest earning wage” — and a pathway to a successful career versus a “great wage.”

Story-telling is a way to reaffirm that business leaders are not just “trying to be a one-trick pony,” Festerling said, noting that compared to the months before COVID-19, the way that employers create partnerships with people is better. 

“I’m really excited about that because the day that we can stop treating people as commodities, so to speak, I think we’re all going to win.” 

— Peninsula Pride Farms members spent Sept. 2 in Sturgeon Bay learning about the importance of cover crop interseeding at the PPF’s third “conservation conversation” of the summer.

Nearly 30 people attended the “dos and don’ts of interseeding” presentation given by Matt and Craig Oehmichen of Short Lane Ag Supply in Colby. It was the largest group to attend a PPF conversation event this year.

The brothers explained that interseeding a cover crop is a symbiotic relationship with the harvesting crop in the soil. They also displayed various cover crop plants that were planted in Brey Cycle Farms’ corn field adjacent to the gathering, including seven top turnip, daikon radish and crimson clover.

“We have to remember there isn’t one thing that stands out with a cover crop, because it’s about the entire ecosystem,” Matt Oehmichen said. “Cover crops help soil biology, worms and other insects and moving nutrients up and down in the soil.”

Participants were shown a slide that demonstrated a field with various rows of cover crops. In the first six rows, there was only one species planted, then one row of three seeds mixed, one row with five and a row with an eight-seed mix. It was proven that at least a five-seed mix is needed to have a beneficial cover crop for the soil and the harvesting crop. The rows with a single seed planted washed away in the rain.

“This was our first year using interseeding on a field that was no-till corn after triticale was harvested in early June,” Jacob Brey said. “One benefit we have seen in our field is increased water retention and building organic matter. The field we planted the cover crop on has shallow depth to bedrock. What we are trying to do here, because we are not able to apply manure, is build organic matter and increase the soil health.”

See the release: 

— Wisconsin’s rising daily cases in younger age groups is sparking concern as the primarily asymptomatic population could spread COVID-19 to an older, more susceptible population. 

Wisconsin reported 857 new COVID-19 cases today, bringing the seven-day average of daily confirmed cases from 842 to 886. 

“If you look at case numbers across Wisconsin and the seven-day average, cases are increasing,” said Dr. Mark Kaufman, chief medical officer of the Wisconsin Hospital Association. He added that the initial surge in March and April of the seven-day average of cases was between 100 and 200 cases. 

“We now have a seven-day average of cases between 800 and 900,” he said. “Cases are spreading.”

The increasing numbers of a younger population contracting COVID-19 doesn’t post an immediate threat to hospital surges because they are less likely to become ill and hospitalized. Up to 40 percent of patients are asymptomatic, according to Kaufman, but that is also a cause for concern.

“As those younger people move among their families and just in society and come into contact with older people who are more susceptible, that will be a significant source of spread of the infection to the older population who is more susceptible and more likely to become ill and hospitalized,” he told

The state received 8,871 tests today resulting in a 9.7 percent positive rate. That brought the seven-day average for percent positive tests to 11.7 percent from 11.3 percent, a new record.

“Although we were all very concerned in the spring about the surge in the first wave, we in Wisconsin have not dampened anything,” Kaufman said. “We are not through the first wave, in my opinion. We are still experiencing that wave. We did really not flatten the curve.” 

He noted data showed a gradual upward trend through the spring, dipping in June, and then rising steadily. 

“When people talk about second and third waves, I think we’re all just in a continuum,” he said. “We have really not gotten hold of the infection in Wisconsin as indicated by the seven-day average of cases which continues to increase.”

The new cases bring the cumulative case count to 83,334, with 73,964 recovered. Meanwhile, 1.4 percent of patients have died.

— Wisconsin recorded 15 new deaths today, bringing the statewide coronavirus death toll to 1,183.

Sawyer County reported its first COVID-19 death today.

Counties reporting deaths include: Milwaukee (507), Racine (92), Waukesha (78), Kenosha (64), Brown (58), Dane (41), Walworth (32), Washington (30), Rock (29), Outagamie (23), Winnebago (22), Waupaca (19), Grant (19), Ozaukee (18), Marathon (14), Fond du Lac (12), Sheboygan (10), Clark (8), Jefferson (7), Marinette (7), St. Croix (7), Eau Claire (6), Pierce (6), Dodge (6), Forest (4), Oconto (4) and Richland (4).

Adams, Barron, Door, Sauk, Taylor and Wood counties report three deaths each.

Buffalo, Burnett, Calumet, Columbia, Green, Kewaunee, La Crosse, Langlade, Manitowoc, Monroe, Polk, Portage, Trempealeau and Waushara counties report two deaths each.

Ashland, Bayfield, Iron, Jackson, Juneau, Lincoln, Marquette, Oneida, Rusk and Sawyer counties report one death each.

Click here for more coronavirus resources and updates: 

— The state launched its “You Stop the Spread” campaign today encouraging Wisconsinites to wear a mask, social distance, wash hands and stay home to protect themselves and their communities from COVID-19. 

The campaign will span across television, radio, billboards and transit as well as in local newspapers statewide. The campaign will also utilize social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok and Snapchat. Local and tribal health offices will receive a toolkit to tailor the message to their communities.

“Stopping the spread of COVID-19 depends on all of us doing our part, but each of us have our own reasons that motivate us,” said Gov. Tony Evers. “That’s why this campaign features Wisconsinites from across our state, and we hope folks will participate by posting photos to share with friends and neighbors about why you’re doing your part, too, to help stop the spread.”

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services is also asking residents to post pictures of themselves doing their part to prevent coronavirus transmission, such as wearing a mask and using the “#YouStopTheSpread” on social media.

“Disease activity is high across the entire state, and You Stop the Spread will reach individuals and communities in every corner of Wisconsin, encouraging us to all work together in taking these actions,” said DHS Secretary Andrea Palm.

See the campaign’s Facebook profile frame: 

Visit the “You Stop the Spread” page: 

— A coalition of groups representing health care, businesses and local governments is launching a new public service announcement that encourages Wisconsinites to continue taking steps to minimize the transmission of the coronavirus, including wearing masks.

The spot includes the line, “Keep it up, Wisconsin!”

The coalition includes the Wisconsin Hospital Association, Wisconsin Counties Association, Wisconsin Grocers Association, Wisconsin Medical Society, Wisconsin Realtors Association, Wisconsin Restaurant Association and Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin.

See the release: 

See the TV ad: 

— Price County is the first since late July to rank “low” for COVID-19 activity. Six counties rank “medium,” according to the state Department of Health Services.  

These are Ashland, Jackson, Lafayette, Menominee, Pepin and Rusk counties.

But 16 counties are seeing both an increased trend and a high burden of COVID cases, up from 13 counties last week. The Fox Valley area, northeast, northwest and south-central healthcare emergency readiness coalition regions are also seeing both an increased case trend and high case burden.

In terms of infection ratios, Milwaukee County has the state’s highest at 26.5 cases per 1,000 people. In one week, Milwaukee County added 751 COVID-19 cases to its count. The county has a cumulative total of 25,014 confirmed cases.

The second-highest infection ratio in the state is Brown County at 23.3 cases per 1,000 people. It added 559 cases in one week for a cumulative 6,067 confirmed cases. Brown County is ranked both having an increased trend and a high burden of COVID cases.

Iron County’s infection ratio is 22.4 per 1,000 people and cases number 131, an increase of 5 cases in one week. Racine County has an infection ratio of 21.5 per 1,000 people and a cumulative total of 4,193 confirmed COVID-19 cases after adding 144 cases in one week. 

Walworth (18.32), Kenosha (18.27), Marinette (15.8), Trempealeau (15.2), Waupaca (15.1), Dodge (14.9) and Waukesha (14.8) and are the other counties that are above the state average infection ratio of 14.4 cases per 1,000 people.

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

— DHS is conducting 11 fewer facility-wide investigations than last week. It’s now conducting 1,148 statewide.

Non-health care workplaces account for 462 of the current investigations, followed by 260 in long-term care facilities.

Long-term care facilities are reporting 432 deaths due to COVID-19, making up 37 percent of the state’s COVID-19 deaths. That’s nine more deaths since last week. These include nursing homes and assisted living facilities, such as community-based residential facilities and residential care apartment complexes.

There are 99 active nursing home investigations.

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

Fifty-five of the investigations are in group housing facilities including correctional facilities, homeless shelters, dormitories and group homes, which have seen 48 COVID-19 deaths, one more than last week, or 4 percent of the state’s total.

Three hundred and seventy-one 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.

The state is also conducting 240 investigations in “other settings,” 82 in educational facilities and 49 investigations in health care facilities. Counties with the highest numbers of investigations include: Milwaukee (183), Waukesha (123), Dane (100), Kenosha (98) and Brown (63).

There have been a total of 2,597 investigations, with 1,449 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 with active public health investigations and a breakdown of investigations by county:  

— To increase awareness about the flu and the number of Wisconsinites getting flu shots, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services intends to award $950,000 in grants provided by the CDC to up to 10 community organizations. 

Each group will receive up to $200,000 depending on the types of outreach and education it proposes completing.

Last flu season, 42 percent of people received at least one dose of flu vaccine, leaving nearly two-thirds of Wisconsinites vulnerable to the flu virus. DHS works to improve flu vaccination rates every flu season, but this season is especially critical because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the agency.

“Given the current pandemic’s impact on human life and health care resources, we need to protect ourselves and our communities from the flu by getting vaccinated,” said State Health Officer Stephanie Smiley. “Getting vaccinated against (the) flu by Halloween is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones against flu viruses.”

The department is inviting community organizations in the state to apply for funding to support community organizations’ flu-related messaging and education to the public, particularly groups that have been marginalized, underserved by health systems or have been disproportionately impacted by the flu or COVID-19.

Grant applications are due by 4 p.m. on Sept. 28. Apply here at the opportunity titled “Improving Influenza Vaccination Rates through Community Outreach”: 


# Dane County Urges UW-Madison To Send Dorm Residents Home To Slow COVID-19 Outbreaks

# Ethanol industry awaits confirmation of Trump SRE directive 

# With lack of business travel, Visit Milwaukee promotes fall leisure packages



– Wisconsin farmer talks about his farm regularly on YouTube 

– Stern Chosen as New MOSES Director 

– Anti-Ag Groups Blame Animal Agriculture for the Pandemic 

– You Can Still Get Your Taste Of Wisconsin Apples 


– Federal report warns of financial havoc from climate change 


– Madison School District plans to apply for waivers from some state requirements


– UW-Superior Awarded $5M For Ballast Water Research And Testing 


– ProHealth Care plans second Pewaukee urgent-care clinic 

– Evers Asks FEMA To Rescind New Rules On PPE 


– Milwaukee Officer Accused Of Reckless Homicide Resigns


– Harken acquires Dutch distributor 

– Molson Coors unveils non-alcohol portfolio in partnership with L.A. Libations 


– Evers has ‘no regrets’ about response to Kenosha shooting

– Biden leads Trump 47% to 43% in new Wisconsin poll by Marquette Law School


– Gov. Evers said he will fight lawsuit that seeks to end Wisconsin mask order 


– These Milwaukee restaurants and bars can operate without a capacity limit 

– Madison’s Spin Live brings livestream shopping to the pandemic marketplace 

– Kohl’s launches new loyalty program nationwide 


– WIAA, University of Wisconsin rule out conducting state tournaments in Dane County this fall


– The pandemic is accelerating adoption of automation and algorithms, Milwaukee experts say 


– Bucks are planning for two hotels in Deer District 

– Bucks unveil plans for hotel near Fiserv Forum 


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

– Mangold Creative: Announces rebrand, changes name to Ampersand

– WMC: 66 associations and local chambers of commerce ask legislators to protect Wisconsin businesses, schools and others as they safely reopen