TUE AM News: COVID regulations top policy issue facing Wisconsin businesses; Hot, humid weather made for excellent crop growth

— The top policy issue facing Wisconsin businesses is the regulatory environment related to COVID-19, according to the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce Summer 2020 Economic Outlook Survey.

Thirty-eight percent of respondents said COVID-19 regulations were the top public policy concern facing Wisconsin, followed by the labor shortage (16 percent) and high taxes (9 percent). This is the first survey in more than five years where the workforce shortage was not the number one issue.

Nearly 150 employers participated in the online survey from June 22 to July 3. The participants made up a representative sample of WMC’s membership: about half of the respondents are from the manufacturing sector while the other half are from every other sector, including construction, agriculture, retail, financial services, insurance and health care. The survey is predominantly multiple choice with some short answer questions; only the multiple choice is published by WMC (see below).

Three-quarters of the sample said COVID-19 and the state’s safer at home order had a negative financial impact on their business. 

“COVID-19 and the safer at home order clearly had a significant impact on employers and employees throughout the state,” said WMC President and CEO Kurt Bauer. “However, we cannot overlook the fact that the state’s workforce shortage isn’t going anywhere. Even with high unemployment, businesses and policymakers need to find solutions today that will solve our workforce concerns of the future.”

But while 75 percent of businesses experienced a negative financial impact from COVID-19 and the state’s stay at home order, only 23 percent of businesses predict they will end 2020 in the red. Meanwhile, 51 percent expect to be less profitable, but still end the year with a profit. Seven percent saw no impact on their profitability and another 7 percent said they would be more profitable.

Many companies — 41 percent — had to make a temporary or permanent reduction in staffing during the economic downturn. But 49 percent did not.

Of the employers that had to reduce staff levels, 45 percent laid off less than 10 percent of their staff. About one-third laid off between 10 percent and 20 percent of their staff, and 10 percent of respondents laid off between 21 percent and 30 percent of their staff. Ten percent of businesses had to lay off more than 30 percent of employees.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, one in five businesses in the survey closed their facility at one point. One in four required most or all employees to work from home. 

Of the employers who required employees to work from home, 39 percent have already returned to the facility or office, 8 percent will return in the next month and another 8 percent will return by the end of summer. Twenty-one percent will return at a later date or have the option to work from home permanently, while 19 percent of employers are still unsure.

“This unprecedented event flipped the Wisconsin economy on its head,” Bauer said. “Businesses large and small have been resilient, and we look forward to working with all of them as our state reopens.”

See the release: https://www.wisbusiness.com/2020/wmc-covid-19-hits-business-community-but-workforce-shortage-still-a-concern/

See the survey results: https://www.wmc.org/wp-content/uploads/WMC-CEO-survey_Summer-2020_RESULTS-002.pdf 

— For the week ending July 12, hot and humid weather mixed with plenty of rain made for excellent crop growth and condition.

As gardeners reported a good week for harvesting canning vegetables, crop farmers had 4.4 days suitable for fieldwork, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. 

Daytime temperatures reached over 90 degrees and frequent afternoon thunderstorms interrupted fieldwork. Heavy downpours associated with these storms flattened crops and caused ponding in isolated areas, but the rain was needed to keep soil moistures adequate. 

Early planted corn was silking at 10 percent, nine days ahead of last year. Corn was rated 81 percent in good to excellent condition statewide, up two percentage points from last week.

Soybeans were blooming and beginning to set pods at 61 percent and 13 percent, each ahead of last year by about three weeks. Soybean condition was rated 83 percent in good to excellent condition, up four percentage points from last week. 

Small grains were ripening and changing color. Oats headed was 93 percent, 16 days ahead of last year; coloring was 51 percent, nine days ahead of last year; condition was rated 83 percent in good to excellent condition, up two percentage points from last week.

Winter wheat turning color was 87 percent, 12 days ahead of last year, and rated 78 percent in good to excellent condition, up two percentage points from last week.

Potato condition was rated 95 percent in good to excellent condition statewide, up two percentage points from last week. 

The second cutting of hay was going strong as alfalfa was reported as 62 percent complete, nine days ahead of last year. All hay condition was reported 76 percent in good to excellent condition statewide, up one percentage point from last week

— Running Rebels, a Milwaukee-based nonprofit organization serving local youth, received a donation valued near $25,000 from Frank P. Crivello, Phoenix Investors’ chairman and founder. 

The Running Rebels Community Organization serves more than 2,500 of Milwaukee’s at-risk youth annually by preventing involvement in gangs, drugs, violence and the juvenile justice system. The organization guides youth through making positive choices and coaches youth through their transition into adulthood. 

The contribution included sanitizer stations, personal protective equipment, a fleet of bicycles and biking safety equipment. The materials are intended to help Running Rebels adjust and continue their mission and daily operations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The donation of bikes and helmets supports our need to be creative with outdoor activities that will limit participants’ exposure to the virus, while the PPE and cleaning supplies ensure that services are delivered safely,” said Running Rebels Co-executive Director Dawn Barnett. 

Phoenix Investors, a Milwaukee-based commercial real estate firm, has donated more than $100,000 to Running Rebels in recent years.

A spokeswoman for Phoenix told WisBusiness.com that the company hopes the post-pandemic donation to Running Rebels, alongside the many others it has made to the various nonprofits and charities it supports, will encourage other corporate partners to contribute, as well. 

“In times of crisis, we turn to organizations like Running Rebels as beacons of hope, stewardship, and compassion,” Phoenix Investors’ Founder Crivello said. 

— S. Melissa Scheppele is to serve as the CIO and senior vice president of A. O. Smith Corporation, a Milwaukee-based manufacturer of residential and commercial water heating equipment, boilers, water treatment and air purification products.

Current CIO Peter Martineau is to retire in late August after 25 years of leadership.

“(Melissa Scheppele) is a strong IT leader with a wealth of experience in establishing global IT strategies and building and directing complex global information technology teams,” said Kevin Wheeler, chairman and CEO of A.O. Smith. “She is sure to be an asset to our Company, given her extensive background in developing processes and leveraging technology solutions to help advance organizations.”

— MMAC President Tim Sheehy and Medical College of Wisconsin President and CEO Dr. John Raymond will begin their first weekly radio segment today.

In the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, MMAC and MCW put on a daily briefing on Milwaukee’s health and economy. Beginning tomorrow, Sheehy and Raymond will continue that update on WTMJ on John Mercure’s show at 4:20 p.m.

Listen live on 620 AM or wtmj.com.

— The state reports 494 new COVID-19 cases, a decrease in daily confirmed cases after Saturday’s 926 cases and Sunday’s 769 cases. Also, no new deaths were reported.

The seven-day average for daily cases is 697, a new record that continues to rise.

The percentage of positive tests per total tests is 7.5 percent, down from 10.1 percent Sunday, but still above the preferred 5 percent or less.

The new cases bring the cumulative case count to 36,942 and active cases to 7,447.

The number of recovered patients number 28,670 or 78 percent, while 2.2 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 percent of the confirmed cases — a growing percentage as daily new cases rise.

The state received 6,621 total tests; Wisconsin has a capacity for 24,362 tests per day.

As Wisconsin sees more cases among people in their 20s, Dr. Mark Kaufman, chief medical officer with the Wisconsin Hospital Association, said young people are less likely to be hospitalized but still can get very sick.

Of the state’s confirmed cases, 10.4 percent have been hospitalized — a percentage that continues to go down. Two percent of COVID-19 cases have received intensive care, according to DHS.

— COVID-19 hospitalizations number 283, up 28 patients from last week.

COVID-19 inpatients with pending tests number 145, down from last week. COVID-19 ICU patients number 85, up from last week. 

About 65 percent of Wisconsin’s total patients — 183 — are in southeastern Wisconsin, which is also seeing an uptick. 

The department also reports 45 or fewer patients in each of the six other public health regions of the state.

“I do think right now based upon the data that Wisconsin hospitals are prepared in terms of having the resources and the staff,the ventilators, the ICU and the capacity,” Kaufman told WisBusiness.com.

Hospitals have a total of 1,256 ventilators and 296 ventilated patients.

ICU beds immediately available in the state number 414 out of 1,463 total in Wisconsin; intermediate care beds — 170 out of 839; surgical beds — 1,265 out of 7,177; and isolation beds — beds in negative pressure rooms meant for isolating patients — 976 out of 1,907.

“The virus is going to be with us really for a while; a vaccine is at least six months off,” Kaufman said. “It’s really up to all of us to wear masks, to physically distance and to follow public health guidance. That is the only way we are going to impact these numbers in a positive way.”

— Hospitals continue to work to strengthen the supply chains for personal protective equipment. 

WHA data show that 27 of the state’s 133 hospitals have a seven-day or less supply of face shields, 43 have a limited supply of goggles, 29 have limited N95 masks, 31 have a limited supply of gowns and 30 hospitals have limited paper medical masks.

But Kaufman added some caveats to the PPE shortage data, which is reported by hospitals and not the hospital system. 

“Many hospitals are working in Wisconsin within systems,” he said. “It would be typical for PPE supplies to be centralized (in the main hospital) and distributed to the system’s hospitals as needed in an adjusted time format — more frequently than every seven days.”

The process will leave the non-central hospitals within a system with seven days or less supply of PPE even though there is plenty of PPE in the centralized hospital.

Health care workers account for about 9 percent of confirmed COVID-19 cases at 3,260, 243 more than last Monday.

See the WHA hospital dashboard here: https://wispolitics.us12.list-manage.com/track/click?u=c540e35869d1ba4ca61b4228e&id=d6b061ecf8&e=63cd46885a 

— To date, the state has collected 696,421 tests, of which more than 221,000 have been collected by the Wisconsin National Guard. 

The National Guard is conducting community-based testing sites this week at the Alliant Energy Center in Dane County, Riverside Park in Grant County, UW-Parkside campus in Kenosha County, UMOS, Custer Stadium and Nicolet High School in Milwaukee County, James Williams Middle School in Oneida County, Festival Hall in Racine County, Bridges Elementary School in Sauk County, Eleva-Strum High School in Trempealeau County, Big Foot High School in Walworth County, 

The Guard is also collecting specimens at two DHS facilities in Dane County, a site in Oakfield in Fond du Lac County, a long-term care facility in Sparta and the Wisconsin National Guard Challenge Academy in Monroe County, a site in Janesville in Rock County, long-term care facilities in Sheboygan Falls, and the Wisconsin Resource Center and Winnebago Mental Health Institute.

See a map of community-based testing sites here: https://wispolitics.us12.list-manage.com/track/click?u=c540e35869d1ba4ca61b4228e&id=d3cce3025a&e=63cd46885a 

— Wisconsin’s COVID-19 death toll remains at 820.

Counties reporting deaths include: Milwaukee (398), Racine (65), Kenosha (46), Brown (44), Waukesha (40), Dane (33), Rock (24), Washington (19), Walworth (18), Ozaukee (16), Grant (13), Waupaca (13), Winnebago (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.

Click here for more coronavirus resources and updates: https://wispolitics.us12.list-manage.com/track/click?u=c540e35869d1ba4ca61b4228e&id=93af7d3722&e=63cd46885a 

— A trio of groups has announced a way for health plans to deliver data and consumer information access to comply with new federal rules.

The groups involved: the Wisconsin Health Information Organization, SymphonyCare and Onyx Technology.

Many Wisconsin insurance companies already work with WHIO as participants in the state’s All-Payer Claims Database to provide price, resource use and information in conjunction with WHIO’s technology partner, SymphonyCare. By adding Onyx’s interoperability platform, SAFHIR, to WHIO’s current technology, Wisconsin health plans will meet regulatory compliance for future healthcare information exchanges.

“As a nonprofit organization dedicated to driving higher quality healthcare at a lower cost through informed consumers, we welcome this partnership,” said Dana Richardson, CEO of WHIO. “We’re striving to provide more opportunities for our health plans to better utilize and protect their health data, and to integrate it with other data sources. We can help health plans achieve compliance with the CMS Patient Access Requirements within 10 to 14 weeks, with minimal change to their current technology.”

The new CMS regulations go into effect July 1, 2021, which WHIO said will impact nearly every health plan in the United States.


# Milwaukee Common Council passes citywide mask mandate 

# Recent jump in Wisconsin Covid-19 cases ‘troubling,’ but not yet alarming: Medical College’s Dr. Raymond 


# COVID-19, Trade Tariffs Pose Delays For State’s Largest Solar Farm https://www.wpr.org/covid-19-trade-tariffs-pose-delays-states-largest-solar-farm 



– As Farm Stress Grows, Wisconsin Farm Center Launches New Counseling Hotline https://www.wpr.org/farm-stress-grows-wisconsin-farm-center-launches-new-counseling-hotline 


– Wells Fargo layoffs could number in tens of thousands: Report https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/07/13/wells-fargo-layoffs-could-number-in-tens-of.html 


– US Commerce Department: Wisconsin’s Economy Shrunk By 5 Percent In First Part Of 2020



– In difficult fundraising environment, All-In Milwaukee looks to help students succeed https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/07/13/all-in-milwaukee-aims-to-help-sudents-succeed.html 

– Wisconsin AG Kaul among attorneys general suing over new rules for international students https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/07/13/attorneys-general-sue-over-student-visa-rule.html 


– Radiologist group sues Ascension Wisconsin after switch to Tennessee provider https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/07/13/radiologist-group-sues-ascension-wisconsin.html 

– Eric Conley takes over as president at Froedtert Hospital; two other execs named https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/07/13/conley-takes-over-as-president-at-froedtert.html 

– Health Disparities Leave Native Americans More Vulnerable To COVID-19 https://www.wpr.org/health-disparities-leave-native-americans-more-vulnerable-covid-19 


– The pandemic has accelerated demands for a more skilled workforce  https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/07/13/coronavirus-retraining-workers.html 

– State awarded $9M to connect job seekers to employers https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/07/13/state-awarded-9m-to-help-job-seekers.html 

– Drive Thru Job Fairs Around Wisconsin Offer Safely Distanced Opportunity For Finding Work https://www.wpr.org/drive-thru-job-fairs-around-wisconsin-offer-safely-distanced-opportunity-finding-work 


– Fox 6 executive takes helm at CBS 58 after Mark Strachota’s retirement https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/07/13/fox-6-executive-takes-helm-after-mark-strachota.html 


– Indoor sports complex proposed in New Berlin https://biztimes.com/indoor-sports-complex-proposed-in-new-berlin/ 

– Home sale prices in southeast Wisconsin jumped double digits in June https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/07/13/home-sale-prices-in-wisconsin-jumped-double-digits.html 


– Mask mandates raise legal, logistical questions for Milwaukee County leaders https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/07/13/mask-mandates-raise-legal-logistical-questions.html  

– City drops appeal over qualified immunity in 2016 police shooting of Sylville Smith, agrees to mediation



– Coronavirus surge is killing America’s small businesses https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/07/13/small-businesses-coronavirus.html  


– These Milwaukee restaurants are seeing success with on-street dining program https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/07/13/milwaukees-outdoor-dining-program-brings-patrons.html  

– How Kalahari’s massive resort rising in Texas is adapting to coronavirus https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/07/13/kalahari-resort-in-round-rock-remains-on-track.html  


– Fracking firms fail, rewarding executives and raising climate fears https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/07/13/fracking-firms-fail-rewarding-executives.html 


<i>See these and other press releases: 

http://wisbusiness.com/index.iml?Content=82 </i>