WED AM News: Evers urges Wisconsinites to embrace wearing masks as Dane County announces mask mandate

— Gov. Tony Evers urged the public to embrace wearing masks as the Madison and Dane County health department announced masks will be required when people are around others in any enclosed building other than their own homes.

The order — the first one in the state — from Public Health Madison & Dane County goes into effect at 8 a.m. Monday.

“Public health research now shows that face coverings are critical to slowing the spread of COVID-19,” said Janel Heinrich, director of Public Health Madison & Dane County. “Given the current number of COVID-19 infections in our county, we need to all be wearing face coverings every time we leave the house.”

Per the order, people must wear a face covering that covers their nose and mouth when in public, which includes in businesses, health care settings, waiting in line and on public transportation.

The order also requires individuals to wear face coverings when in someone else’s home.

Exceptions are made for certain activities such as eating at a restaurant, but during those activities, 6 feet distancing of individuals not from the same household or living unit is required at all times. Some people are also exempted if they have a physical, mental or developmental condition that prevents them from wearing a mask.

According to the health department’s website, there is a team to field complaints reporting those who aren’t heeding to the directive. The goal is to “provide education first before looking towards enforcement” with enforcement focused on those who repeatedly violate the order.

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— The Evers administration has announced new efforts to distribute personal protective equipment to schools, food processors and businesses.

That includes Wisconsin Emergency Management shipping more than 2 million cloth face masks and more than 4,200 infrared thermometers to K-12 public, charter and private schools statewide.

This decision comes after 398 public school districts, 23 charter schools and 617 private schools indicated they would like to receive PPE in a survey sent to administrators in mid-June. The shipments are intended to supplement additional efforts districts may choose to undertake to purchase masks and other PPE.

“Risk mitigation and health factors will drive decisions regarding school operations this fall,” state schools Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor said. “This allocation of cloth masks and thermometers will greatly help Wisconsin schools as they plan appropriately for students to return to school.”

In addition to the supplies, the Department of Public Instruction and Department of Health Services distributed guidance earlier this month to schools related to the use of cloth masks and thermometers.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection is also helping to facilitate the delivery of approximately 60,000 masks to local food processors and businesses.

That includes: 22,500 masks for the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, 22,500 masks for small grocers through the Wisconsin Grocers Association, 8,000 masks for small food processors through the Midwest Food Products Association, 2,500 masks for small cheese plants through the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, 2,000 masks for small meat processors, and 2,000 masks for the Wisconsin Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association for public-facing workers.

The cloth masks and infrared thermometers were supplied by FEMA at no cost to the state.

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— The Madison Region Economic Partnership, Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., the state’s eight other regional economic development organizations and UW-Oshkosh launched the fourth installment of a statewide business impact survey. 

The survey is open – for both past participants and new participants – until July 20.

According to MadREP President Paul Jadin, the survey will also focus on how comfortable Wisconsin businesses are with reintroducing pre-pandemic practices to inform state and federal stakeholders on where support is still needed. 

“As Wisconsin continues to reopen, we need to understand how comfortable businesses feel with engaging in ‘normal’ activities, such as in-person meetings and travel,” he said. “If businesses are not yet comfortable, we need to understand what factors need to be in place before they will take those next steps.”

Businesses who took part in the initial observation period should go to to share their current situation. 

Interested businesses who previously did not participate are encouraged to do so at:

Survey results from businesses responding to the third sampling period — June 1-13, 2020 — are available at:

— COVID-19 Food Security Network Support Grant applications are due July 22 for food banks and pantries. 

Before the holiday weekend, the department released a RFP for an estimated $5 million in grants to help with costs incurred by food banks and pantries related to COVID-19. 

Grants will be distributed through a competitive review process and will be awarded for costs related to COVID-19 and are incurred between March 1, 2020 and Dec. 30, 2020. Payments are estimated to be issued beginning in mid-August.

Funding for the grants are available through the federal CARES Act. This first round of grants will go toward food banks and pantries to support the adaptations they have made in response to COVID-19. An RFP for a second round of grants will be released later in July and will focus on helping the food security network strengthen partnerships to bring Wisconsin agricultural products to Wisconsin residents in need.

Applications can be completed online here:

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— The hot and humid temperatures — reaching over 90 degrees in some parts of the state — made for an excellent week for crop growth. It also gave Wisconsin 5.8 suitable days for fieldwork, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

However, heavy downpours in northwest and west-central Wisconsin June 29 resulting in flooding of low lying fields. 

The second cutting of alfalfa ramped up, resulting in lots of dry hay made. Second cutting of alfalfa was reported as 38 percent complete, a week ahead of last year. All hay conditions were reported 75 percent in good to excellent condition statewide.

Corn and soybeans rapidly put on height the week ending July 5. Scattered locations noted corn tassels were starting to pop. Corn silking was estimated at 2 percent, 10 days ahead of last year, and rated 79 percent good to excellent. Soybeans blooming was 40 percent, 20 days ahead of last year. Soybeans setting pods was estimated at 1 percent and condition was rated 79 percent good to excellent.

Oats headed was 85 percent, over two weeks ahead of last year, coloring was 20 percent, over a week ahead of last year, and condition was rated 81 percent good to excellent. 

Potato condition was rated 93 percent in good to excellent condition, while winter wheat was rated 76 percent in good to excellent condition. 

Winter wheat was 96 percent headed, two weeks ahead of last year, and turning color was  65 percent, nine days ahead of last year.

— Even public bathrooms will look different post-COVID-19, as told by Wisconsin natives Bradley Corp. and Kahler Slater.  

Companies, educational institutions and municipalities are all now evaluating new procedures and products for their restroom facilities, said Jon Dommisse, director of corporate development for Bradley Corp., a commercial washroom manufacturer in Menomonee Falls. 

“While cleanliness has always been a goal in designing restrooms, coronavirus has underscored the need for hygienic, sterile and safe environments,” he said.

“Businesses are looking at short-term and long-term fixes for operating safely,” said Michelle Kempen with Kahler Slater, a Milwaukee-based architectural firm. “The goal is to create safe and healthy indoor environments that reduce the spread of airborne and surface contaminants.”

Kempen and Dommisse identify the following design strategies to help guard against general germ transmission and coronavirus in public restrooms: no-touch fixtures; improved ventilation; modified layouts, such as eliminating doors, adding S-curved and automated doors and widening doorways; avoiding wet floors; antimicrobial finishes and materials including non porous sink materials and designs.

— We Energies and its parent company, WEC Energy Group, announced a $100,000 donation  to help local businesses damaged during recent protests over racial injustice and police brutality. 

The grant money will be provided by the We Energies Foundation to the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce Community Foundation’s Rebuild and Revitalize fund. The program provides grants to business owners to fund repairs, replace inventory or meet other needs. 

MMAC is working with neighborhood business improvement districts and the City of Milwaukee to validate the needs of the businesses and distribute the grants. These include businesses in the Martin Luther King Drive, Harambee, Sherman Park and Near South Side neighborhoods. 

“We believe Milwaukee and the region are stronger and better positioned for a more prosperous future when our diversity is highlighted, our communities are inclusive and our businesses are thriving,” said Kevin Fletcher, president and CEO of WEC Energy Group.

This donation puts MMAC over $700,000 in funds for the Rebuild and Revitalize program. 

“We are grateful to the We Energies Foundation for supporting this effort,” said Tim Sheehy, president of MMAC. “This commitment to strengthen diverse businesses in our community is yet another example of We Energies’ strong engagement in the future of our region.”

See more in top headlines below.

Businesses that are interested in applying for the grants can visit:

— SMARTcare Software, Inc. announced completion of its latest funding round led by the Idea Fund and Rock River Capital with participation from Pablo Capital, MUKC Fund I and the Chippewa Valley Angels Investment Network.  

Headquartered in Eau Claire, SMARTcare is a “software as a service” care platform for home care and healthcare providers. SMARTcare leverages technologies, such as artificial intelligence, to simplify care for providers while saving time and improving outcomes.

Scott Zielski, CEO of SMARTcare Software was unable to disclose the dollar amount of the investment, but he did tell that the company is in the seed plus funding stage.

“Development of SMARTcare began over eight years ago with a software development team inside a home care agency,” Zielski said. “Since commercializing the technology three years ago, SMARTcare has received several rounds of investment. The overall investment in SMARTcare is a multimillion dollar investment with this latest round expanding that range.”

The additional investment will further support SMARTcare’s transformative home care software platform as the company continues its market expansion with its leadership role in caregiver engagement.

“We are passionate about empowering home care providers with more strategic, proactive and productive tools to help them improve healthcare outcomes,” Zielski said. “This funding will further accelerate our growth and drive continued investment in our innovative platform solutions that improve the quality of home care.”

— It’s natural to have a sense of loss from being deprived of person-to-person contact, according to Richard Davidson, the founder and director of the Center for Healthy Minds.

In a Badger Talks episode, Davidson explained that when the global pandemic first struck the U.S., there was a lot of anxiety to get a handle on. Now, as people settle into the long-haul of life with COVID-19, the fullness of losses is beginning to catch up. As we practice social distancing, we’re missing out on in-person events such as birthday parties or vacations.

“The sense of loss is really a natural response. People are longing for activity and social contact that they have been accustomed to,” he said. “People are getting a little tired of the pandemic and have a yearning to reconnect with others.”

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— As the state reported 495 new COVID-19 cases, public officials urged Wisconsinites to stay home.

“Wisconsinites have sacrificed too much to give up now, we cannot go backwards,” Gov. Tony Evers told reporters in a DHS press call. “No party, no bar is worth it.”

The percentage of positive tests per total tests is 3.9 percent, a sharp decline from 9.2 percent Monday. The state received 12,549 total tests yesterday. 

“We are currently experiencing a surge in positive COVID-19 cases throughout the state and we must take necessary precautions,” DHS Secretary Andrea Palm said. “Stay home.”

The number of recovered patients number 25,758 or 79 percent, while 2.5 percent of patients have died. Active cases — those still in a 30-day waiting period of symptom onset or diagnosis — number 5,988 or 18 percent.

— Wisconsin’s COVID-19 death toll rose by nine, bringing the count to 805.  

Yesterday marked Rusk County’s first death. Milwaukee County reported seven new deaths, while Polk County reported one more. 

Counties reporting deaths include: Milwaukee (398), Racine (65), Kenosha (44), Brown (42), Waukesha (39), Dane (32), Rock (24), Walworth (18), Washington (16), Ozaukee (15), Grant (13), Winnebago (13), Waupaca (10), 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 and Polk counties report two deaths each.

Barron, Bayfield, Burnett, Columbia, Eau Claire, Green, Iron, Jackson, Juneau, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Marathon, Marquette, Monroe, St. Croix, Rusk and Wood counties report one death each.

Click here for more coronavirus resources and updates: 

— Cigarette smoking rates among adults have dropped 4 percent in 10 years, according to DHS.

The department attributes the decline to Wisconsin’s Smoke-Free Indoor Air Law that went into effect 10 years ago and the state cigarette taxes that were also increased during the time period.

In 2008, before the law passed, 20 percent of Wisconsin adults smoked cigarettes. By 2018, the rate had dropped to 16 percent. Youth smoking has also declined, but more dramatically. High school youth cigarette smoking rates dropped from nearly 21 percent in 2008 to nearly 5 percent in 2018, according to DHS.

“Wisconsin is breathing easier today thanks to this law, but we know there are many people in our state who still smoke,” said DHS Secretary Andrea Palm. “We urge smokers to take advantage of the programs available to help them to quit, especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic, as people who smoke are believed to be more susceptible to the virus, and can become severely ill with it.”

Wisconsin’s smoke-free law prohibits smoking in enclosed public spaces in order to protect people from secondhand smoke. Despite the law’s exemption for casinos, several Wisconsin tribes have moved toward a smoke-free environment in their casinos, and more are now doing so in light of COVID-19. 

Many communities have local ordinances that also prohibit the use of e-cigarettes and vaping devices in restaurants and bars, protecting an estimated 2 million Wisconsin residents or about 36 percent of the state’s population. 

Nearly 5 percent of Wisconsin adults currently use e-cigarettes, and nearly 22 percent of Wisconsin adults have used them.

See the release: 


# MMAC ‘rebuild’ fund for businesses damaged during protests grows to $760K; applications roll in

# ICE Tells International Students They Must Leave US If Fall Classes Move Entirely Online

# “Road to Rural Recovery” Launched to Help Rural Communities 



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– Latest Wisconsin Fair Cancellation List (Updated 7-7) 

– Gypsy Moth Aerial Spraying Continues 


– The banks that administered the most PPP loans in Wisconsin 


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


– Chancellor Blank statement on new ICE rule 


– Prominent Milwaukee real estate and law firms received PPP loans of $1 million or more 


– Central Wisconsin Lab Will Be CDC Hub For COVID-19 Testing 

– While Still Few, Coronavirus Cases Double Within Two Weeks In One Northern Wisconsin County 

– 9 new cases of COVID-19, 1 death in Northwestern Wisconsin on July 7 

– COVID-19 testing: Know before you go 

– ‘It’s terrifying’: Families worry about inmates as some Wisconsin prison staff not required to wear masks even as COVID-19 on rise


– Saukville-based company commits materials for 1 million masks if Milwaukee passes mask mandate 


– Fox News keeps site at Deer Camp bar as TV networks scale down DNC coverage 

– Leader-Telegram to cease Saturday, Sunday print editions 


– Lafayette Crump approved as Milwaukee development commissioner 

– Bucks, city to help Jeffers convert Journal Sentinel building to MATC student housing 

– Developer to start final phase of $36 million-plus riverfront project in Monona 


– Milwaukee mask mandate would shut down businesses that refuse to comply 

– Milwaukee businesses could be fined for not enforcing proposed city masking mandate 

– Eau Claire business group urges mask use 


– Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits reportedly postponed until 2021 


– Republicans promise coronavirus safety ahead of state GOP convention in Green Bay 

– Rock Island State Park Closed for the Season 


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