— Leaders of small business organizations in the state agree their members will be negatively impacted by coronavirus containment measures, but opinions are mixed on national legislation aimed at addressing the outbreak.
“They might be the first to suffer and get hurt,” said Wendy Baumann, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation. “They’re small; they don’t have huge reserves.”
She noted small businesses may face disruptions in their supply chains, a concern that was echoed by NFIB Wisconsin State Director Bill Smith.
“The big problem with the small business economy has been uncertainty,” he told WisBusiness.com. “What the coronavirus has done to Main Street is a whole new helping of uncertainty.”
He said small business owners in Wisconsin are concerned about how long the restrictions on public gathering and business closures might last, as well as the overall impact on the economy. He noted that 70 percent of U.S. economic growth is consumer-driven, so a lasting slowdown in consumer activity is “something to be worried about.”
In a recent survey conducted by NFIB Wisconsin, nearly 40 percent of small business respondents were concerned about slower sales amid the pandemic.
“We’re all concerned,” Smith said. “Look at the stock market; look at Main Street. It’s entirely new territory for many of us, and the small business community is no different.”
But in a press conference yesterday with state health officials, Gov. Tony Evers noted that “everyone is taking it on the chin” during the viral outbreak.
“Yes, small businesses might be hurt by this,” Evers said. “What we’re doing is making sure the virus doesn’t spread as quickly as it could.”
— Having already ordered K-12 schools closed, Gov. Tony Evers took another step in the fight against the spread of coronavirus as he ordered a ban on gatherings of 50 people or more.
That order exempts infrastructure and services such as grocery stores, food pantries, childcare centers, pharmacies and hospitals.
On a conference call with reporters, Evers encouraged Wisconsin residents to practice social distancing to help limit the disease’s spread. As his call was wrapping up, news broke that President Trump was recommending that people avoid groups of 10 or more.
“I’d say avoid people in general,” Evers said when asked for reaction.
The ban applies to bars and restaurants, which must operate at 50 percent of capacity or a maximum of 50 people, whichever is less.
The order also directs them to cease self-service operations such as salad bars, beverage stations and buffets and prohibit customers from self-dispensing all unpackaged food and beverages. The order also directs restaurants and bars to keep at least 6 feet between tables, bar stools and ordering counters.
A lobbyist for the Tavern League of Wisconsin told WisPolitics.com that “given the reaction in other states, this is a proposal that we’re hopeful is going to work.”
Wisconsin Restaurant Association President Kristine Hillmer said her organization was “very supportive” of the move and had been in dialogues with the Evers administration ahead of its rollout.
“We think these are reasonable things so that we balance the need restaurants to stay in business, for people to continue to work, for people to continue to have eating options and also keeping the public safe,” Hillmer told WisPolitics.com
Both Hillmer and Tavern League lobbyist Scott Stenger said they would back an economic stimulus package to help the industry recover.
Stenger noted that bars and taverns have already taken a “pretty big financial hit” and said a stimulus be something the Tavern League would push for “down the road.”
— Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer of the Bureau of Communicable Diseases at the state Department of Health Services, said testing capacity has increased in the state.
The state’s public health laboratory can now test up to 400 specimens per day and is remaining open seven days per week.
He noted other testing sites are coming online using various technologies that are expected to “dramatically improve” testing capacity for cases in Wisconsin. Eventually, he expects the COVID-19 test to be as “rapid and common” as testing for more common illnesses.
But for now, he stressed that testing sites don’t have enough resources to test everyone who has milder symptoms. Testing will be prioritized for patients with flu-like symptoms and for those who are hospitalized.
The latest numbers from the state Department of Health Services show 47 people in Wisconsin have tested positive for COVID-19 and 504 others have tested negative. State health officials say the novel coronavirus is now spreading among Wisconsin communities as more cases of the disease appear in residents who haven’t traveled.
Westergaard says this “new phase” of the outbreak means containment measures will involve the cooperation of “the whole community.”
“It’s now well understood that people can be infected with the virus and show mild or even no symptoms,” he said.
He noted the cases in Wisconsin vary widely, with most patients recovering at home. But some have been hospitalized and others are “critically ill.”
DHS Secretary Andrea Palm noted testing shortages are “a nationwide problem” due to deployment of tests being delayed. State and commercial labs are “ramping up” capacity as much as they can, though she said access to reagents and other auxiliary testing supplies has run into supply challenges.
She noted the state’s main lab can deliver test results in under two days, though turnaround for hospitals and clinical labs is expected to be different due to varying testing methods.
“We are very anxious for additional hospitals around Wisconsin and other private labs to come online and support increased capacity that we need here in Wisconsin,” Palm said.
See more on the outbreak from DHS: http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/outbreaks/index.htm
— Community-based health plans in the state will cover the cost of COVID-19 testing when recommended by a provider, according to the Wisconsin Association of Health Plans.
The 12 member health plans have pledged to cover these costs without prior authorization and with no cost-sharing, a release shows.
During the ongoing outbreak, the group is encouraging people with insurance who have less serious symptoms to contact their providers first before seeking care in person. They’re also asking patients to use remote care resources such as 24-hour nurse lines and “virtual visits” through smartphones or other devices.
— AG Josh Kaul is warning Wisconsinites to look out for potential scams and price gouging over the COVID-19 outbreak.
Kaul encouraged people to report to the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection any instances they hear claiming there is a vaccine or cure. There are currently no FDA-approved effective drugs or vaccines against the virus.
“As we take extraordinary steps to respond to the coronavirus, Wisconsinites should be cautious of those who may be trying to take advantage of this public health emergency,” he said. “I encourage everyone to report potential scams and price gouging and to take precautions, such as relying on verified and trusted sources of information, to guard against fraud.”
See the release:
— The Madison Region Economic Partnership is rescheduling its Economic Development & Diversity Summit to Sept. 3 in response to the outbreak.
MadREP is also canceling its monthly board meeting and professionals meeting.
See more coronavirus announcements: http://www.wispolitics.com/category/press-releases/
# Resorts in Wisconsin Dells begin to close amid COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic
# State health officials “anxious” for hospitals, commercial labs to do onsite COVID-19 testing
# Area businesses must take drastic actions to avoid huge hit on economy: MMAC’s Sheehy
# Wisconsin labs testing for COVID-19 are overwhelmed
– Alice in Dairyland finalists announced in Walworth County
– Construction groups pause courses to slow COVID-19 outbreak
– Wisconsin restaurants, bars must operate at limited capacity, Gov. Evers says
– Evers bans crowds of 50 or more as number of COVID-19 cases rises to 47
– Wisconsin governor orders ban on gatherings over 50 people
– Wisconsin businesses impacted by efforts to stem spread of new coronavirus
– UW-Madison vet care closes after worker tests positive for COVID-19
# FOOD AND BEVERAGE
– Local restaurants move to take-out only amidst coronavirus outbreak
– SC Johnson donates $1 million to emergency fund in response to COVID-19
– DNC continues planning for Milwaukee convention while monitoring coronavirus
– Evers orders ban on gatherings of 50 or more
– Area grocers, retailers face unprecedented demand during coronavirus outbreak
– Milwaukee Public Market limits services as Evers announces ban on gatherings of 50 or more
– Kohl’s to sell merchandise from Lands’ End online, in some stores
– Major Milwaukee museums close
– Mass transit operators attempt to flatten new coronavirus curve
# PRESS RELEASES
<i>See these and other press releases: