WED AM News: Colleges may never go ‘back to normal’; Chambers urge Winnebago County to reject increasing health officer powers

— College campuses may never go back to normal, according to UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Mark Mone.

“There is no getting back to normal,” Mone said during a virtual Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce meeting. “We’re not going back to what we had before.”

College campuses can expect long-term decreases in physical footprints and will struggle to maintain pre-pandemic enrollment numbers, according to Milwaukee-area university leadership.

Marquette University’s current freshman class is 16 percent smaller than that of the previous year, according to Marquette’s President Michael Lovell.

Vicki Martin, president of Milwaukee Area Technical College, expressed concerns about increasing numbers of students opting to take gap years.

“That gap year is going to cost them in lifetime earnings about $90,000,” she said. 

Read the full story at

— State and local chambers are urging the Winnebago County Board of Supervisors to reject a draft ordinance to increase the powers of the county health officer.

The Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and the Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to the supervisors declaring the ordinance unlawful. 

The proposal would grant the Winnebago County health officer the power to “issue orders for guarding against the introduction of any communicable disease into his or her jurisdiction, for the control and suppression of communicable diseases, for the quarantine and disinfection of persons, localities and things infected or suspected of being infected by a communicable disease and for the sanitary care of schools, public buildings, and other places.”

It also provides that any order would have to be affirmed by the county board.

The chambers’ letter, written by attorneys Ryan Walsh and Amy Miller of Eimer Stahl, laid out a number of reasons the proposed ordinance is unlawful.

“Winnebago County’s proposal would be invalid for three independent reasons: it logically conflicts with state law, it defeats the purpose of state law, and it goes against the spirit of state law,” the attorneys wrote. “That the Legislature granted DHS certain powers — for example, to issue orders for guarding against and controlling communicable diseases and for the quarantine of persons and places — but, in the very next statutory section, declined to grant the same authority to local health officers reflects a clear intent not to vest local health officers with that authority.”

Read the full letter: 

— Wisconsin taxpayers will see $256.4 million in tax relief as a result of additional revenue collected from out-of-state retailers.

Gov. Tony Evers said the income tax cut is due to collections by the Department of Revenue for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30. 

“We are pleased the department could collect these funds from more than 9,000 remote sellers, which is up from 5,000 remote sellers previously,” said DOR Secretary Peter Barca. “I am pleased to see that the changes we made in the Marketplace legislation are delivering the most relief to those who most need it.”

The amount is more than three times the $77.4 million in tax relief in 2019. Last year, Evers signed bipartisan legislation, 2019 Wisconsin Act 10, which ensured the tax relief would be targeted toward lower and middle-income Wisconsinites.

“I was proud to sign legislation that received bipartisan support to ensure that the rate cuts would reduce taxes for all income groups but especially for our lower and middle-income taxpayers,” Evers said. “It is important we are able to provide this much-needed tax relief for Wisconsinites, especially during these unprecedented times.”

— Investing in social responsibility efforts can help maintain employee loyalty, according to a Kohler Co. exec.

In a keynote presentation for the national YP2020 conference, Laura Kohler cited a 2016 study that found 70 percent of employees are more likely to be loyal to their company if it contributes to social and environmental issues. She is senior vice president of human resources, stewardship and sustainability. 

Another 2020 study, Kohler said, found 60 percent of global consumers under 30 years old prefer brands that “stand for something.”

“The external environment is definitely calling for more focus on corporate social responsibility,” Kohler said.

The two-day, young professional conference concludes today with a focus on driving collective action in the fight against injustice and systemic oppression.

Five months ago, Kohler Co. made a statement on LinkedIn pledging to combat systemic racism

after a white Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd, a Black man. From an environmental responsibility standpoint, every new Kohler Co. branded plumbing product will go through environmental screening by 2021, Kohler said.

“A company can aspire to be purposeful,” Kohler said of her company’s social responsibility

efforts. “And then, there’s the ability to actually harness the talents of the people you have

around you.”

National partners for YPWeek, presented virtually by Concordia University,  include NEWaukee and Y-Link – Young Leaders in Kenosha among others.

— The Department of Workforce Development has paid more than 536,700 claimants over $3.96 billion since March 15.

That leaves 7.8 percent of weekly claims held up in adjudication by one or more weeks due to multiple issues. About a month ago, the backlog was in the double digits at nearly 10.5 percent.

DWD has sent 4,700 claimants and $60 million through the pipeline from Oct. 10 to Saturday. It’s also received 13,831 UI applications.  

The update comes after the agency announced its partnership with Google Cloud to assist in UI claims processing, allowing DWD to release payments faster. The partnership began on Monday.

— DWD has announced the Wisconsin Fast Forward grants.

The money is for employers who can demonstrate a critical need for skilled workers and seek funds to develop and implement employer-led skills training.

WFF training programs are designed to train and place workers in positions that offer long-term professional growth and economic opportunity. 

Preference will be given to applicants that propose to train underserved individuals, such as chronically unemployed individuals and economically disadvantaged individuals, including, but not limited, to W-2 and FoodShare Employment & Training recipients, ex-offenders who have been the subject to any stage of the criminal justice process, Black, Indigenous, people of color, people with disabilities and veterans. 

Further preference will be given to training programs that provide training that leads to industry-recognized credentials or certifications.

Apply by Nov. 20 at 3 p.m. and learn more about the program here:

— A Tech Council symposium panel will discuss Wisconsin as a hub for the bio-industrial revolution.

Bio-industrial processes seek to turn renewable non-food resources, organic waste and gaseous waste into fuels, materials and chemicals. 

Michael Koeris, CEO of the BioIndustrial Institute of Manufacturing Excellence, will join Mary Blanchard of the Madison-based Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center for a panel discussion during the 2020 Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium on Nov. 11.

California-based Koeris has a background as a venture capital-backed entrepreneur, which will help the work of the group as it works with industry to develop advanced products, fuels and more from raw materials.

Former state Department of Health Services Secretary Karen Timberlake, now with Michael Best Strategies, will lead the discussion.

Register here:  

— Through the Single Family Housing Direct Program, Wisconsin USDA Rural Development was able to help 239 households with $13.2 million.

This is an increase of 56 households and $1.4 million dollars over the previous fiscal year to help homeowners purchase, construct, refinance and repair their homes.

The home purchase program accounted for 81 households with a price tag of $12.4 million, and the home repair program benefited 158 households and cost over $837,000. 

The investments, which took place in the year beginning Oct. 1, 2019, came from annual congressional appropriations through the USDA. This past year, Rural Development has leveraged loan and grant funds from several local housing organizations and nonprofits.

All of Wisconsin’s counties, aside from Milwaukee County, have eligible rural areas for Rural Development’s housing programs. The department has assisted most of the 71 counties with Sawyer, Adams and Crawford seeing the most activity, according to a Rural Development spokeswoman. 

Interested parties can put an address into a property eligibility link to determine eligibility: 

— As of Oct. 9, the state has expended or committed $1.87 billion in federal funds in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Tony Evers’ administration said roughly $120 million remains unallocated to ensure the state continues to have the flexibility to respond to emerging needs.

Federal dollars in the state’s Coronavirus Relief Fund must be spent by the year’s end. According to the guv’s release, this leaves states facing a “significant cliff” in available funding despite an ongoing pandemic.

“COVID-19 — we will have to pay for it, but it will be a significant, significant issue for our budget,” Evers said yesterday in a health briefing. “We have to take care of COVID-19 first, and if the federal government isn’t going to do their job, we will have to make the hard choices in Wisconsin.”

Evers yesterday provided an updated accounting of federal funds invested in public health, emergency response and economic stabilization in response to the pandemic. The money was allocated by the Evers administration from the state’s share of the federal CARES Act dollars.

Wisconsin has put $1.05 billion toward its public health emergency response, the majority being spent on the state’s testing program. The state allocated $821.3 million to economic recovery initiatives, including the local government and tribes Route to Recovery program and two rounds of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.’s “We’re All In” grants.

See the release:

— Medical College of Wisconsin lead says that the state is an epicenter of COVID-19 in the U.S. and has been for over two weeks.

The state accounts for eight of the 20 metro areas in terms of worst burden of new cases per 100,000 residents, Dr. John Raymond told a Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce briefing. 

These are No. 3 Oshkosh-Neenah, No. 4 Appleton, No. 6 Sheboygan, No. 7 Wausau-Weston, No. 9 Green Bay, No. 15 Fond du Lac, No. 18 Manitowoc and No. 20 Beaver Dam. 

As of Monday, the CDC reported Wisconsin is ranked third for the highest daily new cases in the past seven days at 22,811. The Badger State is ranked fourth for the highest daily case rate at 56.1 infections per 100,000 population.

Wisconsin reported 4,591 new COVID-19 cases yesterday. That’s a record single-day case count and the first time cases broke 4,000 in one day. 

“We know since the beginning of the pandemic, somewhere between 35 and 45 percent of the cases typically occurred either in nursing homes or in prisons — the congregate living situations — and the rest of the burden, 55 to 65 percent of the patients, are out in the community,” Raymond said.

The doubling time in the state for cases — 42.3 days — is worsening, he added. It could result in 174,000 more cases by December. 

Raymond added that individuals should be getting tested on a regular basis. However, he said people are not cooperating with contact tracers and public health departments are becoming overwhelmed.

Wisconsin reports 178,482 cumulative COVID-19 cases with 139,455 of those people recovered. Those that are deemed recovered may have lasting impacts known as “long haulers syndrome” or “long COVID,” Raymond said. He added that he doesn’t believe it’s age-dependent. 

“Just because you’re categorized as recovered, doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve recuperated to your pre-COVID-19 infection state of health. We’re finding out more and more that people are having lingering side effects, even people that have relatively mild symptoms,” he said. “Some of those are fairly debilitating — an inability to think clearly, no motivation to get out of bed, somewhat like chronic fatigue syndrome.”

— Adherence to the mask mandate isn’t optimal in Wisconsin, Raymond said. 

“A mask is not a biohazard suit or a biocontainment suit. You’re simply trying to minimize your risk. Wearing a mask is one element of reducing that risk,” he said. “But I would counter the idea that everybody is wearing a mask — it’s simply not true. You see many, many people out not wearing masks.”

He noted that the major source of community spread in Wisconsin is people interacting inside homes now that the weather has gotten colder. 

“Wear a mask especially when you can’t socially distance,” he said. “A six-foot distance is not a substitute for wearing a mask.”

— Raymond said he doesn’t agree with the argument that people with preexisting conditions would have died even if they didn’t contract the coronavirus.

“It’s really not fair to say that if someone died of a heart attack or a stroke when they had COVID-19 that it wasn’t due to COVID-19. We know that COVID-19 increases the likelihood of blood clotting,” he said. “It’s a value statement to just basically shrug your shoulders and say ‘they had preexisting conditions, they were going to die anyway.’ I don’t buy that.”

He added that physicians, not health systems, fill out the death certificate and put down all the potential causes of deaths. 

“Most physicians have no interest in gaming the system,” he said. “Most of the folks that have taken care of COVID-19 understand it’s a devastating disease that is the proximate cause of death in most of the people that have COVID-19.”

Wisconsin reports 33 new deaths among confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the death toll to 1,633. The death rate is at 0.9 percent. 

“Ultimately, when the pandemic is over, the infection fatality rate is likely to fall in at about 0.6 to 0.7 percent. That’s five to 10 times higher than the mortality rate for the seasonal influenza,” Raymond said.

— The Alternative Care Facility at State Fair Park still had no patients as of yesterday afternoon, despite statewide COVID-19 hospitalizations reaching a record of 1,192 yesterday.

The Wisconsin Hospital Association’s coronavirus data dashboard reports intensive care units were also at a record high of 315 patients.

The West Allis field hospital, designed to serve as an overflow facility for hospitals across the state, opened Oct. 14.

Southeast Wisconsin is operating at over 90 percent of its bed capacity, including ICU bed capacity, according to DHS’ data. Fox Valley and north central Wisconsin are operating at over 80 percent capacity for both hospital and ICU beds.

“The Alternative Care Facility really is our ultimate insurance policy and we want to make sure that it’s there should our hospitals need it,” DHS Secretary Andrea Palm said in a health briefing yesterday. “The active management of patients on a daily basis in a hospital is an active and fluid thing outside of a pandemic, and now you layer the pandemic on top of it, and it changes day to day.”

The state has revisited sites, plans and conversations that it had earlier in the year should it need to pursue a second ACF. Palm said the department doesn’t think it’s necessary to begin building or construction on a second field hospital. 


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– DNR On Track To Fill Great Lakes Fish Stocking Quotas 


– Behind-the-scenes report details Foxconn’s failure to live up to its promise in Wisconsin


– Appeal Filed Challenging Governor’s Restrictions At Bars, Restaurants 


– Facebook restricts La Crosse County GOP page


– Wisconsin voters line up to cast early in-person ballots

– Election workers will have to pull all-nighters to count Wisconsin ballots


– Milwaukee may tighten Covid-19 restrictions in response to case increases 


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