WED AM News: MyGenomeRX shows how DNA can affect response to medication; Wisconsin faces “impending shortage” of nurses

— Whether it be allergies, cold, flu or pain and chronic disease management, most people turn to medication for relief. However, variations in genetics can affect how individuals respond to various medications. 

MyGenomeRX is a digital health company that offers educational information about the influence of a person’s DNA on their response to medications. The company uses pharmacogenomics — a combination of pharmacology, the study of drugs, and genomics, the study of genes and their function.

As an information technology tool, MyGenomeRX allows customers to upload their existing genetic data from commercial genetic testing providers such as Ancestry and 23andMe.

Anyone can have their DNA tested. Companies like Ancestry and 23andMe havecommercialized genetic testing, making it easier for individuals to learn about their genetics for a variety of reasons. Some want to know more about their family history and others aim to learn about their susceptibility to genetic disorders.

Genetic data is often collected via a swab of saliva or a strand of hair. These samples of DNA are shared with genetic testing facilities through the mail. Once tested, the individuals will receive a comprehensive report based on their DNA sample. Depending upon the extent of genetic data a person would like to receive, the cost of personalized genetic testing is between $40 and $100.

But commercial genetic testing does not analyze how DNA sequences affect one’s reaction to various medications. That’s where MyGenomeRX comes in. Customers upload their genetic data to MyGenomeRX. Next, they choose between three levels of reports; each level offers more comprehensive and personalized information to their specific list of medications. These reports provide insight into how their DNA could influence drug choices and doses.

Read more at 

— UW-Madison School of Nursing Prof. Barbara Pinekenstein says Wisconsin is facing an “impending shortage” of nurses.

Wisconsin has 90,000 registered nurses, according to data presented by Pinekenstein in a “UW Now” livestream event from the alumni association. The average age of those nurses is 46. In 2018, 43 percent of nurses planned on retiring or stopping work within the next 10 years.

Pinekenstein also noted many baby boomers still are working in nursing.

“We have an impending nursing shortage that’s going to get worse with significant numbers of retirements,” said Pinekenstein noting specific deficits in critical care, infection control and population and public health. “The need for the nursing school to make sure we are training the next generation of nurses and for healthcare systems to try to keep nurses longer into the profession is important to mitigate the issue.”

She touted UW-Madison for having over 1,000 student nurses — 240 nurses graduating at the end of this week — and being the most technologically advanced school of nursing in the nation. But a “significant gap” still exists between the total number of graduating nurses in the state and the number needed in the workforce.

“Once the hospitals open up, we’re going to be very busy, and there’s going to be an increased demand for nursing,” she said. “My concern is, I think when you look at what happens after major disasters, you do see a lot of the responders have increased health issues and often go into retirement at higher levels.”

— The Wisconsin Paper Council and its members are waiting on the state Senate to pass legislation to ensure the papermaking industry comes out of the pandemic, and into the new normal, stronger than before.

The chemical recovery boiler bill, otherwise known as Senate Bill 699, would change the requirement for papermakers to have boilers inspected annually to biannually. The legislation, which unanimously passed the Assembly in February, would reduce the times they have to take their boilers out of service. 

This would cut the yearly multi-week process of cooling, inspecting and reheating, which can also result in temporary reductions in staff due to lack of work.

Scott Suder, president of the Wisconsin Paper Council, noted this bill will “make certain” that Wisconsin is competitive with other states that have similar rules and regulations.

Sam Miller, operations manager at Verso, a paper producer out of Wisconsin Rapids, has experience working in a Michigan mill, where the facility was able to go two years between inspections.

“That is a big deal working around a chemical recovery boiler,” he said. “The loss of production that you experience is to the tune of several million dollars every time that you have to do an annual, internal inspection.”

According to Miller, allowing a full 24 months between inspections would provide manufacturers and their employees with regulation certainty, so facilities can better plan for inspections. He also noted that lessening the thermal cycling process would keep the operation more sustainable and safe.

“A stable operation is a good operation,” he said. “That’s where you have the least chance for upsets and environmental emissions.”

It’s fair to say that fewer upsets in the workplace are what any business wants during the current pandemic, especially in an industry where demand has soared.

“I think the store shelves speak for themselves,” said a Kimberly-Clark spokeswoman in response to paper products in high demand, whether it’s bathroom tissue or personal protective equipment. 

To keep up with increases in demand, Suder said manufacturers producing those items “are working 24/7 to make sure that their supply chain, and the manufacturing and the transportation and technology work streams are operating at peak capacity.”

“We want to assure consumers that we are doing our best to ensure a steady supply of products to stores,” said the Kimberly-Clark spokeswoman. “Kimberly-Clark is working closely with our retail partners and customers to understand their current needs.”

As an essential business, paper manufacturers also had to rethink their safety procedures to keep workers feeling safe and healthy, an “emotional” task with rapid changes, according to Miller.

In addition to using guidance from CDC and WHO for best workplace practices, Miller said Verso is “communicating with our membership, engaging them to look for different ideas and creative ways to continue to operate while doing it with state health practices.”

Suder said the council also provides safety guidance, but has focused more on making sure paper manufacturing is labeled as essential and the supply chains are continuing to run as Wisconsin moves towards a new normal.

“It’s forced us to become more flexible, to get into different markets and try different things,” said Miller. “In some of the areas where our markets declined, I expect that to bounce back.”

In the meantime, the paper industry will wait for the Senate to take up the chemical recovery boiler bill.

“We’ve developed a wide, amazing coalition for this bipartisan legislation,” said Suder. “We’ve got labor support, we’ve got economic development support, we’ve got chamber support and a number of coalitions — not to mention the support of our 30,000 plus employees throughout the state of Wisconsin.” 

Listen to a WisBusiness podcast with Suder and Miller:

See the bill:

— The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce is asking Gov. Tony Evers to start a phased reopening of the state economy by Monday, May 11, arguing that hospitals and businesses are ready for that process to begin. 

The group’s board on Friday unanimously passed a resolution urging Evers to allow more businesses to open, and MMAC President Tim Sheehy says the request has also been communicated to the legislative leaders of both parties. 

“Our sole focus is to influence policy that puts Wisconsin in a stronger position,” Sheehy said yesterday, pointing to a number of factors driving the resolution. He said Wisconsin’s hospital systems are not in crisis, though they have the metrics to track capacity and guide their response. 

“This is not a hospital crisis, and they have communicated as much,” he said. 

At the same time, Sheehy says the designation of essential versus non-essential businesses was a “blunt instrument” to manage the stay-at-home order. He says “many more” employers could safely open for business without threatening the safety and health of either workers or customers. 

Sheehy used the example of a small furniture retailer being forced to close while Wal-Mart can sell the exact same products, which he calls an “inconsistency” with the guv’s order. 

He also pointed to a study from UW-Madison estimating Wisconsin has seen a 30 percent decline in economic output since the pandemic began. Of that 30 percent drop, Sheehy noted only 4 percent to 6 percent is attributed to businesses being sidelined under the stay-at-home order. The rest is due to decreased consumer confidence and spending, he said. 

“To accelerate towards a consistent recovery, we are going to need to take those next steps to rebuild consumer confidence and employee confidence in the health and safety of their workplace,” he said. “We believe the facts dictate that we move to a smart restart.” 

See the full resolution here: 

— Recent survey results from startup leaders in the state suggest that federal COVID-19 relief loans aren’t providing much peace of mind for these early-stage companies. 

Startup Wisconsin’s Founder Pulse Survey was conducted in April and got responses from leaders of 70 companies, which collectively employ more than 600 workers. 

Fifteen percent of respondents applied for the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan Emergency Advances, and 35 percent applied for the SBA Paycheck Protection Program. Twenty percent applied for both. 

Of those who received support through these programs, just 25 percent say they feel confident this funding will provide enough support to sustain the business. 

Another 30 percent didn’t apply for either program, and some said they weren’t able to apply due to a lack of payroll. The startups surveyed have an average of 8.5 employees. 

Meanwhile, 80 percent of respondents say they plan to raise capital over the next year, with 80 percent of those founders looking for venture capital. Another 45 percent are seeking to raise venture debt financing and 29 percent are looking to banks for funding. 

A full 48 percent of respondents said their hiring plans are unchanged in the fallout of COVID-19, but 20 percent said they’ve stopped hiring. About 19 percent are reducing their workforce, 6 percent are hiring more full-time workers and another 6 percent are hiring fewer full-time workers than planned. 

See the full report here: 

— The Badger Institute says the ongoing economic shutdown is costing Wisconsin $178.9 million in lost production each day. 

According to estimates from the conservative nonprofit group, Wisconsin experienced $5.3 billion in lost production in the first month of the shutdown. The group says that could more than double if the current restrictions are maintained for another month. 

The study also shows that impacts vary widely by county, with Milwaukee County seeing a loss of $30 million per day and Menomonee County losing just under $40,000 per day. 

“State policymakers are going to have to decide whether to allow more businesses to open on a regional basis,” said Badger Institute President Mike Nichols. “They already have some data regarding the wide array of impacts of the virus in each and every county. We hope this new data helps them factor in the impacts on the economic side as well.”

See the full study: 

— DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk says “testing, tracing and tracking are our way out of this pandemic.”

DHS reports the state death toll at 353 for Tuesday — up 13 people from Monday.

In addition, confirmed cases rose 330 since Monday. That brings the total number of confirmed cases to 8,566. Counties with over 500 confirmed cases include Milwaukee (3,353), Brown (1,545), Kenosha (571) and Racine (535). 

According to Barbara Pinekenstein, nursing professor at UW-Madison, 19 percent don’t exhibit any symptoms, but yet the patients are still infectious. She also noted Waukesha and Dane counties as hotspots in Wisconsin.

But DHS’s hospital dashboard reports 307 COVID patients in hospitals statewide, a decrease of 21 from Tuesday’s 328, and 43 under last Wednesday’s number of 350 patients.

With data provided from DHS, found that Wisconsin’s share of positive cases per number of total tests is on a steady decline after its peak on Friday. The numbers show 12.7 percent of total tests came back positive on Friday, followed by Saturday (10.3), Sunday (11.1), Monday (9.9) and Tuesday (8.6). 

Local health departments conduct contract tracing but are supplemented by state staff. In the past two months, the state has hired 208 contact tracers and has conducted over 14,000 contact tracing interviews since March. 

But Willems Van Dijk says that the state will continue to increase staff. She noted that DHS had over 1,000 applicants in the first few days of posting the job position. 

“The number of contact tracers we need will depend on the projected number of cases we will need to interview,” she said. 

— The Wisconsin National Guard has established a testing site in a meatpacking plant in Kenosha County and increased its coronavirus response team by 400 citizen soldiers.

Gen. Paul Knapp, Wisconsin’s adjutant general, said the Guard is to have 25 testing teams by the end of next week. In total, the Guard has more than 1,400 members serving the coronavirus response, “primarily to plus up the state’s testing capacity.” 

The teams work at multiple community testing sites in Milwaukee, Green Bay and Buffalo counties, and factory and food processor sites in Racine, Grant and Crawford counties.

“As of the end of the day yesterday, our Guard teams have collected more than 7,500 specimens across the state,” Knapp told reporters in a DHS briefing. 

— A new system in Madison can decontaminate 80,000 N95 masks a day, extending the life of this important resource for frontline health care workers.

Health facilities collect, package and ship used N95 masks to the Battelle CCDS Critical Care Decontamination System in Madison. The system uses concentrated, hydrogen peroxide vapor to decontaminate the masks and returns the masks to the health facilities.

PPE continues to be a lacking resource in the state, according to data from Wisconsin Hospital Association and DHS. 

Thirty-two hospitals in the state have a seven days or less supply of N95 masks, 40 have limited supply of gowns and 30 hospitals have limited paper medical masks.

But Wisconsin does seem to have an adequate supply of beds and ventilators.

ICU beds immediately available in the state number 407 out of 1,449 total in Wisconsin; intermediate care beds — 231 out of 863; surgical beds — 1,662 out of 7,217; and isolation beds — beds in negative pressure rooms meant for isolating patients — 1,203 out of 1,986.

Statewide, hospitals have a total of 1,265 ventilators and are using 309 of those for patients.

“In Wisconsin, we’ve been very lucky that we have had enough beds for patients to be admitted to the hospitals, we’ve had enough critical care beds and we’ve had access to ventilators — very different from other states,” said Barbara Pinekenstein, professor at the UW-Madison School of Nursing. 

— The Department of Health Services and the State Emergency Operations Center have launched hospital gating criteria. 

The criteria, developed with input from the Wisconsin Hospital Association and the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative, sets hospital metrics to be able to move into Phase 1 of Badger Bounce Back, according to DHS’s release.

“The Badger Bounce Back plan is our road map to turning the dial in Wisconsin,” said DHS Secretary Andrea Palm in a statement. “Ensuring we do not overwhelm our hospital capacity is integral to that plan, and having this hospital gating criteria in place makes that a more attainable goal.”

The new metrics are: 95 percent of hospitals affirm that they can treat all patients without crisis care — defined as operating under extreme conditions, such as having a lack of critical supplies; 95 percent of all hospitals affirm that they have arranged for testing for all symptomatic clinical staff treating patients at the hospital per CDC guidelines; and a downward trend of COVID-19 cases among health care workers calculated weekly.

Out of the six gating criteria in Badger Bounce Back, a downward trend of COVID-19 cases among health care workers and the downward trajectory of flu-like illnesses reported within a 14-day period are the two goals that have been met. 

According to DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk, the green indicators that mean the state reached its goal “could turn red again.” 

“The gating criteria help us understand when it is safe to interact more frequently with each other,” she said in a DHS briefing. “When they are green, we’ve reached a point where the virus is not spreading as much as it is now.”

— The Wisconsin Hospital Association is applauding a donation of 100,000 surgical masks from the Taiwanese government to the state, with WHA President Eric Borgerding calling it “very welcome news.” 

According to a release from U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, the donation was made after the Republican lawmaker had several conversations with Taiwanese officials focused on responding to the pandemic. 

In the release, Borgerding thanks Gallagher for his efforts and notes that “we need these masks and other material in our hospitals and clinics today as the health care system begins emerging from this pandemic.” 

Taiwan has also offered help to other U.S. states during the COVID-19 crisis including Illinois, Massachusetts and New York. 

“Wisconsin is a place where common sense is a common virtue, and Wisconsinites understand well both their friends and their foes,” Gallagher said in a statement. “It is clear that Wisconsin and the United States have few better friends than Taiwan.” 

The release shows Gov. Tony Evers will decide how to distribute the donated masks. 

— Of the state’s 8,566 cumulative confirmed cases, an estimated 48 percent have recovered from COVID-19. 

That’s based on the number of confirmed cases who have at least documentation of resolved symptoms, documentation of release from public health isolation or 30 days since symptom onset or diagnosis. Forty-eight percent of patients are still in that 30-day period.

Of the state’s confirmed cases, 20 percent were hospitalized, 5 percent received intensive care and 4 percent have died, according to DHS.

Counties reporting deaths include Milwaukee (201), Dane (22), Waukesha (20), Racine (15), Kenosha (14), Brown (9), Ozaukee (9), Rock (9), Walworth (8), Grant (7), Clark (4) and Washington (4). 

Door, Fond du Lac and Sauk counties report three deaths each.

Outagamie, Richland and Sheboygan counties report two deaths each.

Adams, Bayfield, Buffalo, Columbia, Dodge, Iron, Jackson, Juneau, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Marathon, Marinette, Marquette, Monroe, Waupaca and Winnebago counties report one death each.

Sixty-seven of Wisconsin’s 72 counties have confirmed cases.

Click here for coronavirus resources and information: 


# Wisconsin health agency releases metrics hospitals must achieve before Badger Bounce Back

# Tommy Bartlett Show scrapped amid health concerns; Lake Delton attraction vows return in 2021

# Marcus Corp. reports $19.4 million net loss for first quarter



– Wisconsin officially sets new milk production record in ’19

– Spring planting progress surpasses five-year average


– Commission OKs plans for $125M development in Madison square


– MMAC wants phased-in restart of state’s economy to begin before expiration date of Evers’ ‘Safer at Home’ order

– Milwaukee’s largest business group calls for May 11 end to Safer At Home, gradual reopening of economy


– The latest: Regents to vote on scrapping ACT/SAT submissions


– See how popular Bay View restaurant is preparing to reopen with social distancing


– With more COVID-19 testing capacity in Wisconsin, Evers unveils plan to test all nursing homes, add drive-thru sites

– ‘Almost a death sentence’: How Wisconsin doctors, peers are rethinking ventilators for coronavirus


– DOJ withdraws 2016 opinion on high-capacity well permitting

– Second attempt to block statewide COVID-19 order before Supreme Court


– Advocate Aurora CEO taking 50% salary cut during pandemic


– Twin Disc CEO says PPP loan allowed company to bring employees back in Racine


– Evers, Republicans discuss regional reopening of Wisconsin


– Brady Corp. considering expansion of Good Hope Road HQ


– Kohl’s begins reopening stores in some states


– 2019 was the best year in recent history for Wisconsin tourism, then coronavirus hit


<i>See these and other press releases: </i>