— Gov. Tony Evers pledges a “buffer” to give people time to comply with a coming “safer at home” order.
Evers noted the federal government has posted a list of essential businesses. Still, he added there will be a “Wisconsin vantage point” to the list he will release.
“There’s going to be a large number of businesses that will remain open, just like we’ve seen in other states,” added Evers Legal Counsel Ryan Nilsestuen yesterday on a call with Evers and health officials.
They declined to provide specifics on what the coming “safer at home” order will look like other than saying it’s expected to continue current policy allowing bars and restaurants to provide take out and delivery.
The Department of Homeland Security’s Cyberspace and Infrastructure Security Agency on Thursday issued guidance on what qualifies as an essential service.
The list includes sectors such as: health care, including the manufacture of personal protective equipment; those supporting groceries, pharmacies and other retail that sell food and beverages; and infrastructure employees supporting the electrical grid, petroleum industry and natural gas.
Other industries on the list include: automotive repair and maintenance; air transportation; plumbers, electricians and others who maintain the safety, sanitation and operation of residences; and a host of manufacturing associated with transportation, energy, communications, food and others.
Leaders of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce say they support the escalated response, despite the hardships businesses in the state may experience.
“This decision by Governor Evers will add to our economic hardship, but it is also necessary to reduce the real health risks,” said MMAC President Tim Sheehy in a statement. “The sooner we start, the quicker we get through to the other side.”
— The Wisconsin Technology Council is urging Gov. Tony Evers to take a “broad view” of which businesses qualify as essential ahead of today’s “safer at home” order.
Tech Council President Tom Still encourges an approach that “takes into account research and development entities whose contributions can bolster the COVID-19 fight, suppliers to core industries such as health care, suppliers to manufacturers deemed critical and others — particularly young companies — that can bring special talents to the mix.”
— The Department of Health Services has announced the state’s fifth death from COVID-19.
According to the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s office, the patient was a 54-year-old Milwaukee County man. It’s the third death from coronavirus reported in the county.
As of 2 p.m. yesterday, 416 people have tested positive for the virus, while 7,050 have tested negative.
“Together, we must minimize the number of people who get COVID-19 at the same time,” said DHS Secretary Andrea Palm. “The larger the number of people who have the disease at any one time, the larger the subset of those people who will have severe illness and require hospitalization.”
Prior to the latest figures being released, Evers announced via Twitter he will issue what he’s calling a “Safer at Home” order tomorrow shutting down all non-essential businesses and travel.
In a series of tweets yesterday, Evers laid out some of what the order means. Health care professionals, grocers, family caregivers and others will still be allowed to travel to and from work.
In yesterday’s call, Evers’ chief legal counsel said restaurant delivery and pickups will also still be allowed under the order.
Evers also wrote residents “can still get out and walk the dogs,” but travel will be limited to essential needs such as going to the doctor, getting groceries and obtaining medication.
On Friday, Evers told reporters he wasn’t considering an order to shelter in place, but “will follow the science on that.” Yesterday, he wrote he was giving people notice now so they have the opportunity to prepare.
Final details will be released today when the order is issued.
“I know this has been difficult and has disrupted the lives of people across our state,” Evers wrote. “That’s why issuing a #SaferAtHome order isn’t something I thought we’d have to do, and it’s not something I take lightly. But here’s the bottom line: folks need to start taking this seriously.”
Evers’ move comes two days after GOP legislative leaders indicated they wouldn’t support any additional steps restricting business activity beyond what the guv had previously ordered.
Find links to coronavirus resources here: http://www.wispolitics.com/2020/coronavirus-resources/
— The Wisconsin National Guard is instituting a buy-back program for personal protective equipment, calling on businesses to sell or donate these materials to the coronavirus response effort.
As the director of emergency management for the state, Major General Paul Knapp is coordinating more than 300 Wisconsin National Guard soldiers and air personnel to help the state.
In a conference call with Gov. Tony Evers and state health officials, Knapp said a website for the buy-back program has been created and will go live sometime in the next two days.
“Businesses that have closed as a result of the outbreak and no longer have use for the PPEs, we can buy it back or take those donations, reprioritize them and get them back out to the first responders and medical folks that need them the most,” he said.
He said the National Guard will take any N95 particulate respirators, face masks or shields, gloves, isolation gowns, surgical gowns, medical coveralls and thermometers. Collected materials will be kept in a secure warehouse and distributed based on greatest need. Wisconsin has also requested additional protective equipment from FEMA.
Knapp says the website will have the capacity for other “critical needs” including formula and diapers for child care, as well as hand sanitizer.
“What we’ll be able to do then is make informed decisions to best maximize known critical resources in the shortest amount of time,” Knapp said.
— On the 10th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act being signed into law, health access advocates in Wisconsin are calling on the federal government to end a lawsuit against the ACA.
During a conference call yesterday organized by Priorities Wisconsin and the Committee to Protect Medicare, speakers emphasized the importance of health insurance coverage for individuals impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
“As we are bracing for the impact on our scarce hospital and ICU beds and supplies, we know that keeping barriers to medical care in place means more sick people spreading the infection widely in our communities,” said Dr. Laurel Mark, a retired physician based in Madison.
She and other speakers noted the Affordable Care Act led to millions of previously uninsured Americans gaining coverage over the past decade.
“If the lawsuit that the Trump administration champions causes the ACA to be made void, the opposite will happen,” said Steve Ohly, a nurse practitioner with experience caring for uninsured individuals in Milwaukee. “Instead of making progress toward full coverage, we will regress as a society and the ranks of the uninsured will grow.”
As many people are laid off due to impacts of the coronavirus, Mark notes a significant portion of them is expected to lose insurance. And if the lawsuit targeting the ACA is successful, the issue could be heavily compounded.
“What is going to happen April 1st when all of these people who don’t have jobs anymore now don’t have insurance?” she said. “There’s going to be a huge number of people who will not be insured very shortly — by next week, probably.”
Another speaker on yesterday’s call, an Oconomowoc native named Jacque English, has polycystic kidney disease. Her pre-existing condition led to major hurdles in obtaining coverage before the ACA was created.
“Every month when I fill my prescriptions, the pharmacy reminds me the cost can change anytime,” she said. “It’s tough living with the uncertainty of not knowing how long I’ll continue to be able to afford all my medications.”
Dr. Laurel Mark explained that “really systemic changes” are occuring in health care delivery amid the coronavirus pandemic, some of which may be putting care providers at increased risk.
“I think the system is just bracing for the impact that we’re expecting to happen in the next few weeks,” she said during the ACA call. “The biggest crisis right now is the lack of personal protective equipment. People are already feeling this.”
Mark has been retired for less than a year, and is still in close contact with former colleagues working at hospitals and clinics in the Madison area. She says some providers working in urgent care settings have been using single-use masks “all day or for several days, until they fall apart.”
Plus, she said health workers are being instructed to clean and reuse certain materials that were never meant to be used more than once.
“This is really unsafe,” she said. “These are the workers that we need at the front line taking care of people.”
At the same time, consolidation of services has been occuring at clinics in the state, with many closing and moving patients to other care settings. She said that’s being done to keep care workers “productive and protected,” but also to minimize the risk of patients being exposed.
“I think the systems are doing their best under the circumstances, but the circumstances are pretty terrible,” Mark said.
— OCI has directed Wisconsin insurers to help restaurants that have begun offering delivery service.
Evers previously ordered the closure of restaurants except for takeout or delivery.
The new order means insurers have to cover delivery services on personal auto insurance policies. They also must cover hired drivers and non-owned automobiles as a rider on a restaurant’s general liability insurance if it is requested. Both must be offered at no extra cost to policyholders.
Read the bulletin:
— Building groups and associations are asking lawmakers and Gov. Tony Evers to consider construction companies as “essential” businesses in Wisconsin.
In a letter to Evers, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, the groups asked that construction projects including commercial, residential, public works and remodeling be considered an essential service.
The authors added that workers be protected from any shutdown, shelter at home or workforce limitation. This would include the installation and maintenance of HVAC systems, plumbing and refrigeration equipment.
They claim that construction sites already have built in “social distancing” because the sites are tightly controlled with safety protocols and separation from the general public.
“We represent thousands of hard-working Wisconsinites that are literally building Wisconsin and understand the importance of balancing public health with the need to finish critical infrastructure projects.”
The letter was signed by the Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin; Wisconsin Builders Association; Wisconsin Geothermal Association; Wisconsin Water Well Association; Plumbing, Heating, Cooling Contractors Association; Wisconsin Roofing Contractors Association; Commercial Real Estate Development Association, Wisconsin Chapter; Commercial Association of Realtors, Wisconsin; Wisconsin Pump and Well Suppliers and VJS Construction Services.
— The Wisconsin Paper Council also outlines the need to exempt papermakers, converters and printers from a “safer at home” order in a statement aimed at Evers and state and federal lawmakers.
“Papermakers and their coalition partners in the converting and printing industries are key producers and shippers of the products which are critical in the fight against this worldwide pandemic,” said WPC in a statement. “[We] are requesting the Governor’s ‘Safer at Home’ Executive Order define our industries as ‘essential business’ operations and are made exempt from the restrictions included in such an order.”
“Our manufacturing operations are critical in order to ensure that the public, especially the medical community, is protected from this dangerous virus,” said Scott Suder, the council’s president, in the statement.
WPC said its member companies have implemented COVID-19 health, safety and operational plans to support their employees, visitors and customers and will continue to work to ensure the continual flow of essential consumer and medical products.
— AG Josh Kaul called for dropping the ongoing lawsuit on the Affordable Care Act during a WisDems press call celebrating the ACA’s 10th anniversary.
Kaul said the coronavirus crisis shows how critical the protections of the ACA are to the American people.
“Americans have been asked to take extraordinary steps to help us fight the spread of coronavirus and we need our federal government to take extraordinary steps as well and one way that it can support the American people as we fight this virus is by standing up for health security and dropping the attacks on the Affordable Care Act,” he said.
Kaul noted he was proud to drop Wisconsin from the lawsuit against the ACA last year.
The Trump administration has talked about reopening ACA enrollment so that people who have no coverage or have gotten a “junk plan” can re-enroll and get stronger coverage, according to Kaul.
“I certainly encourage the Trump administration to move forward with that effort at this time,” he said. “This is a time Americans need greater security from our federal government.”
During the call, Kaul also applauded the ACA for preventing women from being charged more than men for the same care, and working on providing preventative care such as vaccinations, cancer screenings and mammograms.
— The Democratic National Committee is running ads in six states including Wisconsin highlighting the positive impact of the Affordable Care Act.
The ads are aimed at diverse voters, with a radio portion in Spanish airing in Pennsylvania, Arizona and Florida. Print ads will run in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, focusing on protections for pre-existing conditions provided by the ACA.
“Victory in 2020 will be won in Black and Brown communities throughout the country, and we cannot afford to take a single vote for granted,” said DNC Chair Tom Perez in a statement.
One of the print ads has a tagline reading: “Our families depend on our health care. Democrats protect it.”
— The state Department of Workforce Development will now be posting layoff notices directly to its website rather than sending out notifications for each notice.
The agency will be updating the page daily, according to a release.
— NEWaukee is hosting a number of virtual events this week through its online Cloud Cafe platform, including a coworking lunch, happy hour and a mentorship address from the group’s co-founder, Patrick O’Brien.
See more: http://www.newaukee.com/cloud-cafe/
— The latest edition of the WARF Entrepreneurons event series will include experts from across the state participating in a webinar discussion tomorrow.
Speakers will include gener8tor co-founder Joe Kirgues, Rock River Capital Partner Partner Chris Eckstrom, WEDC Vice President of Entrepreneurship Aaron Hagar, StartingBlock Madison Executive Director Chandra Miller Fienan, WARF Venture Officer Mike Partsch and many others.
# Evers ordering nonessential Wisconsin businesses closed
# Nearly 70,000 initial unemployment claims filed in Wisconsin last week
# Hyatt Regency Milwaukee informs state it’s laying off 112 workers due to coronavirus
# Governor to issue ‘stay-at-home’ order for Wisconsin
– DFW expecting changes to June Dairy Month activities for 2020
– Construction expected to continue in Wisconsin under Evers’ stay at home order
– Questions hang over whether Evers’ order will apply to construction
– Racine launching emergency fund to aid small businesses impacted by COVID-19 outbreak
– SBA rolls out disaster loan program
– Madison sees multi-million dollar financial hit due to COVID-19
– UW-Extension delays youth livestock weigh-ins statewide
– Farmers urged to check runoff risk prior to spreading manure
# FOOD AND BEVERAGE
– State order designed to help restaurants deliver during crisis
# HEALTH CARE
– MPE increases production of carts for ventilators
– Medical College of Wisconsin endowment makes $5 million available for COVID-19 response
– Business Health Care Group’s Kluever, area’s first confirmed COVID-19 case, is back to work
– DHS: 416 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin
– Milwaukee businesses begin announcing mass layoffs during coronavirus pandemic
– Johnson Controls exec replacing Tim Sullivan as REV Group CEO
– In wake of pandemic, Democratic National Convention planners acknowledge ‘contingency options’
– Summerfest postponed until September
– Summerfest moving to nine days in September due to coronavirus
# PRESS RELEASES
<i>See these and other press releases: