TUE AM News: Brown County reports 402 workers at meat plants in county are infected with COVID-19; Steineke questions why Evers not relaxing restrictions on more businesses

— Brown County health officials report 402 workers at meat plants in the county are infected with COVID-19, though the total number of cases linked to these outbreaks is still unknown.

The jump in cases comes amid increased testing and scrutiny of these meatpacking facilities. JBS Packerland Plant, which has the most positive tests at 255, has announced plans to temporarily close the Green Bay location. American Foods Group has 130 positive tests and Salm Partners in nearby Denmark has 17, but both remain open.

Officials from the CDC, state Department of Health Services and Brown County Public Health conducted walkthroughs of all three facilities last week. And Gov. Tony Evers reached out to Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach over the weekend to “offer support and to talk about how we can handle what’s happening,” according to Claire Paprocki, public health strategist for the county.

“We can’t attribute the spread solely to one facility in Brown County,” she said yesterday during a webinar. “Each facility that we have toured took the correct preventive measures, i.e. personal protective equipment was provided, social distancing was adhered.”

Still, she said the new cases being reported are attributable to both spread in the facilities and in the community. Monday’s numbers only cover infected employees, and Paprocki said more information on connected cases such as family members or roommates will be available soon.

The JBS Packerland Plant employs about 1,200 people, and is one of more than 60 JBS facilities spread across the country. Individual locations in other states have also had hundreds of positive cases of COVID-19.

“We’ve been focused on doing everything we can to keep the virus out of our facility, but we believe a temporary closure is the most aggressive action we can take to help our community collectively slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Shannon Grassl, president of the JBS USA Regional Beef.

The meat plants in Green Bay are among a handful of companies in Wisconsin under investigation by OSHA. Others include the Smithfield/Patrick Cudahy Plant in Cudahy, TNT Crust in Green Bay and Birds Eye Foods in Darien.

See more: http://www.wisbusiness.com/?p=1451651 

— One of the Legislature’s top Republicans is applauding Gov. Tony Evers’ move to roll back some restrictions on nonessential businesses.

Still, Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, questioned why the guv had selected dog groomers, small engine repair shops and upholstery businesses, for example, for his latest order, but not other types of companies.

The guv’s chief legal counsel said the businesses were selected because there is a small chance that COVID-19 could be spread under the services that will be allowed starting at 8 a.m. Wednesday.

“There is very little person-to-person interaction just in normal circumstances, and then with the additional safety requirements laid out in this order and previous orders, we’re minimizing the risk even more,” said Chief Legal Counsel Ryan Nilsestuen.

Under an order signed yesterday by Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm, curbside drop-off of goods or animals would be allowed for nonessential businesses such as dog groomers, small engine repair shops and upholstery businesses.

The order also allows the resumption of automatic car washes and outdoor rentals of boats, golf carts, kayaks, ATVs, and other recreational vehicles.

Steineke noted the guv’s three-phase plan to reopen the state includes benchmarks such as a 14-day drop in new positives and increased testing capacity, neither of which has been hit yet. He said the guv’s office is sending conflicting signals by not allowing more businesses to open.

“The question is why these businesses and why now?” he said.

Under the order, services must be paid for online or by phone. Drop-offs and pickups must be scheduled ahead of time to comply with social distancing requirements. Only one staffer at the business can be in a room or confined space at a time; that space includes a car or a truck. Customers aren’t allowed inside the business.

The new guidelines are set to go into effect at 8 a.m. on Wednesday.

See the order: http://content.govdelivery.com/attachments/WIGOV/2020/04/27/file_attachments/1436850/EMO34-SAHDialTurn.pdf 

— The Department of Health Services reports COVID-19 deaths and cases are still rising.

DHS reports state deaths from COVID-19 at 281 and cumulative confirmed cases at 6,081. Deaths increased by nine, and confirmed cases by 170 since Sunday. 

With data provided from DHS, WisBusiness.com found that Wisconsin’s share of positive cases per number of total tests is on its third day of decline — three days closer to meeting Badger Bounce Back’s goal of a two-week decline.

The numbers show 11.7 percent of total tests came back positive on Saturday, 9.7 on Sunday and 7.6 percent Monday. 

DHS Secretary Andrea Palm said in a press call yesterday that the department is looking at an average downward trajectory or “rolling trajectory” with a goal to “smooth out bumps” in the data. This is to make sure the data isn’t “sensitive to fluctuations of daily ups and downs.”

Monday marked a total of 2,246 tests, but Wisconsin has the capacity to perform 10,992 tests per day. State health officials said performing more tests would give a better read on whether the state’s coronavirus infection rate is trending down.

— An estimated 45 percent of confirmed cases 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.

DHS’s hospital dashboard reports 337 COVID patients in hospitals statewide, a decrease of six from Sunday’s 343, and below the week’s average of 348 patients.

Counties reporting deaths include Milwaukee (167), Dane (21), Waukesha (15), Racine (10), Ozaukee (9), Walworth (8), Kenosha (7), Rock (5), Grant (4) and Washington (4). 

Fond du Lac and Sauk counties report three deaths each.

Brown, Clark, Outagamie and Sheboygan counties report two deaths each.

Adams, Bayfield, Buffalo, Columbia, Dodge, Door, Iron, Jackson, Juneau, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Marathon, Marinette, Marquette, Richland, 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, 79 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).

Eight percent of the people infected by COVID-19 live in a long-term care facility and 3 percent live in a group housing facility. Forty-nine percent are unknown.

In Wisconsin, women make up 52 percent of the confirmed cases and account for 41 percent of deaths due to COVID-19. Meanwhile, men make up 48 percent of confirmed cases, but account for 59 percent of deaths.

The African American community makes up 24 percent of the state’s confirmed cases, but account for 34 percent of deaths due to COVID-19. 

Click here for coronavirus resources and information: http://www.wispolitics.com/wisconsin-coronavirus-resources/ 

— Joe Kirgues, co-founder of gener8tor, is urging startup founders to “be aggressive” in pursuing funding from federal programs aimed at helping businesses survive the pandemic. 

“As people look harder and harder at these programs, they’ll find there are resources available to help them get through the next two months,” he said yesterday during a webinar hosted by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. 

In a conversation with MMAC President Tim Sheehy, Kirgues gave an update on the gener8tor Emergency Response Program, which helps small business leaders, startups, nonprofits, musicians, artists and freelancers that are impacted by COVID-19. 

The program includes a suite of webinars, and gener8tor staff work one-on-one with each company to help them engage with available resources. It was developed in Indiana, where gener8tor worked with economic development officials to craft business response programming, Kirgues said. The program has more than 5,000 participants. 

He acknowledged the challenges that both individuals and business leaders are facing but expressed optimism that many companies can find innovative ways to make it through the current crisis. 

“If you sit there and work on the problem of how you get enough revenue to stay in business for the next four or five months, it’s not going to be fun. But I suspect the majority of businesses can come up with a better model — at least one good enough to stay in business through this,” Kirgues said. 

See more on the program: http://www.gener8tor.com/emergency-response-program 

Listen to WisBusiness: The Podcast with Joe Kirgues: http://www.wisbusiness.com/2020/wisbusiness-the-podcast-with-joe-kirgues-co-founder-of-gener8tor/

— WARF is holding the second installment of its “Crossroad of Ideas: COVID-19 Edition” series on Thursday, featuring comments from UW-Madison leaders. 

Panelists include. : Dominique Brossard, with the Life Sciences Communication Department and the Morgridge Institute for Research; Ron Stewart, also with Morgridge; J. Michael Collins, from the Center for Financial Security; Jordan Ellenberg, representing mathematics; William Hartman for UW Health; Jonathan Patz with the Global Health Institute; and Karen Smith, from the psychology department. 

The virtual event will be held at 5 p.m. on Thursday. 

Watch the first installment here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqCcPzzfaPQ 

See more event details and register here: http://discovery.wisc.edu/events 


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# Evers loosens restrictions, allowing more businesses to open


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– Lost year?: Housing industry staring down slow start to construction season


– Certain ‘nonessential’ businesses allowed to open but with precautions


– Local music venues join national push for federal assistance


– Ag in the Classroom program calls off Summer events


– UWRF CAFES holds annual scholarship program online



– Grandparents advised to hold off on watching grandkids, visiting family during pandemic



– Rite-Hite releases renderings for new MKE HQ

– Monterey Mills, Eder Flag ramp up to produce 65,000 face masks daily

– WMEP webinar to highlight manufacturing’s response to COVID-19


– As roughly 1,500 turned out for stay-at-home protest, epidemiologist saw ‘vehicle’ for viral spread


– Former DATCP secretary running for state Senate



– Wisconsin housing construction posts strong start to 2020

– New York investor buys second Park Place office in Milwaukee 



– New ‘Safer at Home’ order allows businesses to reopen with curbside drop-off services


– Gov. Evers further loosens restrictions on nonessential businesses in Wisconsin



– Sheet-music giant Hal Leonard accelerates digital growth as pandemic forces furloughs 



– New X-Golf location planned in Mequon


– Telkonet receives $913,000 through PPP


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