WED AM News: Mike Huebsch to serve as Wisconsin Water Alliance president; Epic offers risk-scoring algorithms to prioritize patients

— The Governor’s Task Force on Broadband Access will advise lawmakers on strategies for expanding high-speed internet access and initiatives for digital inclusion.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored that access to high-speed broadband is a necessity, not a luxury, and folks across our state have had to adapt—from kids and educators shifting to virtual classrooms, workers having to work from home, and even folks using telemedicine to visit with their doctor,” said Gov. Tony Evers.

Evers decision to form the task force was based on a recent report by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. that outlined broadband as critical to the state’s economic recovery form the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In a release, the guv noted that 7.1 percent of Wisconsin residents lack access to at least one broadband service with high- speed internet — 25/3 Mbps or better — compared to the national average of 5.6 percent. This percentage deepens in the state’s rural areas, where 26.7 percent of Wisconsinites lack access.

The task force will be chaired by Brittany Beyer, executive director for Grow North Regional Economic Development Corp. Beyer and 23 members will prepare an annual report that will include the current state of broadband in Wisconsin, recommendations for policies and initiatives to overcome challenges to statewide access, affordability and adoption. Staffing support for the task force will be provided by the PSC’s State Broadband Office. The task force’s first meeting will be later this summer.

See Executive Order #80:

See the release: 

— Mike Huebsch, a former GOP Assembly speaker, DOA secretary and Public Service commissioner, will serve as the Wisconsin Water Alliance president after his unanimous election by the board.

Huebsch told  the biggest challenge facing Wisconsin water right now is the balance between government regulation and everybody who uses water in the state.

“It’s that balance that we are going to continue to be on the edge of in determining whether or not we are going to be able to continue to have environmentally practical but business-minded regulation,” he said.

Huebsch’s first course of action is to raise awareness of the WWA through networking and strengthening relationships with other organizations already on the forefront of water issues in the state, such as the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the Wisconsin Paper Council and the Farm Bureau. Then, he said, the association can start to develop that balance in order to promote the policies best suited for Wisconsinites and its water. 

When lawmakers return to the Capitol after the elections, Huebsch noted that WWA will have a lot to do between the significant water issues the governor had on his plate, AG Josh Kaul’s rulings on high-capacity wells “a concern that could limit water in vital industries in our state including agriculture” and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’ water task force that WWA will advocate for or improve on.  

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— A national economic recovery from the pandemic-induced recession rides on the ability to act quickly so people can safely return to work and buy goods and services without fear of contracting coronavirus, an economist and economic reporters agreed during a DC virtual event.

The national economy is experiencing a recession unlike any before, with problems affecting markets on both the supply and demand sides.

On the supply side, people are unable to return to work because many industries, like leisure and hospitality, are simply unable to provide an environment that facilitates social distancing. On the demand side, consumers are wary or unable to buy goods and services at pre-coronavirus rates because they fear contracting the virus. Additionally, many businesses people used to shop at are closed or operating at reduced rates.

While the economy has been clawing its way back from the sharpest downturn in U.S. history, a new wave of infection cases is fueling uncertainty.

“Of course, no one knows what’s going to happen here,” said Thomas Walstrum, a senior business economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. “Is the second wave going to push economic activity? Is it going to slow it, or are we actually going to see things come down?”

To help the recovery, the Federal Reserve has been offering lower interest rates and working to create a borrower-friendly economy, Walstrum noted.

A split Congress, due back later this month, appears unlikely to come up with a compromise before the August recess as several aid packages, such as the special $600 weekly unemployment payment, are ready to end.

GOP U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson is more concerned with examining how CARES act funds were spent than examining the House-passed Heroes Act championed by Dem U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, according to Spectrum News Washington correspondent Taurean Small.

“The House back in March passed the Heroes Act worth about $3 trillion and would include another round of individual checks,” said Small. “But again, this is a divided Congress, so nothing is ever really easy. I think the most collaboration that we saw happened at the earlier part of this pandemic. As we’re several months into it now, this is where we start to see those divisions.”

But the Fed simply doesn’t have the ability to send cash to people who need it like Congress does.

“Fed Chair Jay Powell says all the time that the Fed has lending powers and not spending powers,” said Politico financial services reporter Victoria Guida.

Learning from the economic recovery after the Great Recession, the Fed decided to act quickly to help struggling businesses by providing financial liquidity in the markets.

“Certainly, low-cost loans help, but you need actual cash at the end of the day sometimes and you might not want to saddle yourself with debt,” said S&P Global Market Intelligence reporter Polo Rocha.

Walstrum predicted the U.S. economy will make a full recovery by the middle of 2022, but Guida said that all depends on how the United States deals with the health crisis at hand.

“This is a health crisis, and figuring out how to control and contain the virus should be at the top of the list for how we can get an economic recovery,” she added.

See the luncheon:

— Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett told a Metropolitan Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce webinar that he signed the city’s mask mandate because “we are not making the progress we need to make” in the battle against COVID-19. 

The city’s new ordinance will require masks to be worn in public spaces — indoor or outdoor — where a distance of six feet cannot be maintained between individuals who do not live in the same household.

Activities like running and biking would not be impacted by this ordinance, Barrett said. It applies mainly to public spaces like restaurants with outdoor seating capabilities or public gatherings.

“COVID-19 doesn’t grant exceptions to anybody,” Barrett said. But there are exceptions to the mask policy, including those with disabilities that prevent mask wearing and those with a religious belief that prevents them from wearing masks.

See the mandate: 

— Epic provides risk-scoring algorithms that look at health factors to help organizations determine which appointments to reschedule first. 

This comes after the COVID-19 pandemic caused health care organizations to cancel most routine and elective procedures. Now that health care facilities start offering those services again, reduced schedules, essential for social distancing, have put available appointments at a premium and generated a large backlog of patients waiting to be seen. 

Some of the factors that the risk-scoring algorithm looks at include: age, chronic conditions, obesity and previous hospitalizations.

“We’re helping hospitals and clinics understand how to prioritize appointments as they reopen, allowing patients to get the care they need while restoring the financial health of our customers,” said Dr. Chris Mast, Epic’s vice president of clinical informatics.

— Janesville is home to a new Caravel Autism Health center specifically designed to serve children and their families.  

While there is a prevalence of autism in the U.S. — one in 54 children, according to the CDC — there are significant provider shortages in many communities. Caravel CEO Mike Miller said his team wants to close that gap.

“We are extending our reach by opening new centers so that our specialists can change children’s lives in more communities,” Miller said. Caravel Autism Health currently offers diagnostic and therapeutic services across five states.

“Our goal is to make sure that families in southern Wisconsin have access to autism specialists,” said Christine Wilkins, regional director for Caravel Autism Health in the Madison area. “We know that autism can be reliably diagnosed at two years of age and having early access to evidence-based treatment is critical.”

Caravel Autism Health’s team is trained in evaluating children who may be on the autism spectrum. The team also creates and leads individualized Applied Behavior Analysis treatment plans that help children with autism develop skills, create connections and gain confidence.

— Gov. Tony Evers said a travel advisory in Wisconsin would be “almost impossible” to enforce due to the number of roads and other ways to enter the state.

“I don’t anticipate having one of those,” he told reporters in a Department of Health Services briefing.

The response comes after New York’s governor added Wisconsin to its coronavirus quarantine list. Travelers from Wisconsin and 21 other states are required to quarantine for two weeks upon entering New York.

“My goal is to get off of New York’s list… If they put us on their list then they’re thinking we have surges here, which we are,” Evers said. “We should use this as a motivator to continue to do the best we can and increase our ability and our participation in having masks and keeping socially distant and staying home as often as possible.”

— Medical College of Wisconsin President Dr. John Raymond warns that Wisconsinites have four to six weeks to change their behavior before experiencing what other states are seeing: overcrowded ICUs, full hospitals and refrigerator trucks as morgues. 

The “troubling” indicator is the state’s reproductive number that indicates the number of people a contagious person can infect before they show symptoms. The “R number” is at 1.22 in Wisconsin and 1.37 in Milwaukee. 

“We want that to be under one,” Raymond told a Metropolitan Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce briefing.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Wisconsin has had an average positive rate — percent positive tests per total tests — of 5.3 percent.  

“We’d like it to be under 5 percent,” he said. 

The best news over the past two weeks is that Wisconsin’s hospitals are not full and have plenty of ICU capacity, Raymond said. “And four to six weeks to change our behavior.”

He said that if behavior doesn’t change within that time, Wisconsinites could be facing what Arizona and Texas are currently experiencing: ICU beds and hospitals are full and some places are ordering refrigerated morgue trucks. There is still time to turn it around if people start following the guidelines and precautions that have been outlined, he said.

In a DHS briefing, Secretary Andrea Palm’s message was similar. She noted that Wisconsin has been lucky not to be on the leading edge of COVID-19 outbreaks, but if the state waits too long to take action, it will be too late.

“Now really is the time to double down on our work together so that we don’t have to learn firsthand the lessons that Florida and Texas and Arizona and New York and Seattle did,” she said.

Both Raymond and Palm encouraged mask wearing, physical distancing and hand washing. 

— The state reports 964 new COVID-19 cases, the fourth record this week in daily confirmed cases. 

The seven-day average for daily cases is 764, also a new record that continues to rise.

The percentage of positive tests per total tests is 6.6 percent, down from 7.5 percent Monday, but still above the preferred 5 percent or less.

The new cases bring the cumulative case count to 37,906 and active cases to 7,800.

The number of recovered patients number 29,275 or 77.2 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 20.6 percent of the confirmed cases — a growing percentage as daily new cases rise.

The state received 14,680 total tests; Wisconsin has a capacity for 24,362 tests per day.

Health care workers account for about 9 percent of confirmed COVID-19 cases at 3,321, 61 more than Monday.

Coronavirus patients ages 20-29 accounted for 310 of yesterday’s new cases and 25 percent or 9,571 of the total confirmed cases. That age group also accounts for eight of the total COVID-19 deaths. 

— Wisconsin’s COVID-19 death toll rose by six to 826, with Milwaukee County surpassing 400 COVID-19 deaths.

Milwaukee County reported four more deaths bringing its total to 402. Kenosha and Winnebago counties each reported one more death. 

Dr. John Raymond noted that death is a “lagging indicator” behind the spikes in cases. Hospitalizations and ICUs lag up to four weeks behind cases and deaths may lag several weeks behind that. Wisconsin is currently seeing declines in death rates statewide. 

Counties reporting deaths include: Milwaukee (402), Racine (65), Kenosha (47), Brown (44), Waukesha (40), Dane (33), Rock (24), Washington (19), Walworth (18), Ozaukee (16), Grant (13), Winnebago (14), Waupaca (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: 


# Milwaukee police looking to gear up for scaled back Democratic convention

# Businesses adapt as Dane County mask order takes effect

# Johnson Opposes ‘Even A Dime More’ In Economic Stimulus Until Issues Addressed

# New COVID-19 clinical trials at UW–Madison and UW Health will study antibody approach 



– Researcher says watch for white mold in soybeans now 

– Wisconsin is experiencing fewer dicamba problems 

– Tractor Sales Jump Over 30% 

– Dairy Coalition Concerned Whole Milk Will Be Banned From Schools 


– Feds rescind ICE rules for international students  


– Environmental Groups Argue Details Are Missing On Proposed Wisconsin Pipeline Relocation 


– Ascension Wisconsin’s former radiology services provider suing the health system 

– Advocate Aurora CEO Skogsbergh spoke with Gov. Evers before announcing proposed merger  

– Teletherapy During The Pandemic 

– Free Health Care for Those in Need- Neighborhood Free Health Clinic in Stoughton 


– Molson Coors substantially expands hard seltzer production capabilities 

– Rockwell Automation names first Latina vice president of global affairs  


– The Role Of The ‘WOW’ Counties In The 2020 Election 

– Badger Talks: Mail-in voting during the pandemic 

– Wisconsin Democrats raised record-high $10M over 3 months


– Group acquires East Side properties where it is proposing a 90-unit apartment project 


– Cintas to close facility in Menomonee Falls 


– Several Milwaukee bars, restaurants close again amid COVID-19 concerns 


– Mitchell airport’s second-busiest airline last year loses $7 billion in second quarter 


– Two Years After Sun Prairie Explosion, Wisconsin Has Few Regulations On Drillers 


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