WED AM News: Student startup makes safe dining easier for restaurants, universities during COVID-19; DWD reduces UI backlog to under 7.5 percent

— An idea developed before the pandemic has turned into software to help restaurants and universities succeed in the COVID age. 

UW-Madison sophomores Abhijeet Manohar and Sourish Kundu have co-founded a secure menu and ordering platform as well as an indoor capacity tracker. 

Their business, Dine In LLC started as an idea in September 2019. Manohar was frustrated with a long wait at a sit-down restaurant when he had homework to do that day. The duo, both triple majoring in computer science, data science and economics, decided to streamline the ordering process for medium-tier restaurants.

The secure, QR coded menus and order placing technology eliminates physical menu cards and the time for waitstaff to repeatedly visit the table prior to ordering. The QR stickers look like business cards on each end of the table. A customer would scan the code with their smartphone and order from the digital menu.

“The idea was basically to eliminate physical menu cards because it seemed like the 1900s to have a physical menu card and place an order,” Manohar said. It took up to four months for the team to have the technology ready. By then, COVID-19 had come to the U.S. 

“I think this whole COVID situation happened and we were like, ‘Oh my god, this is the right product for this particular situation’’” he said, adding that interested restaurants wanted to try the product because it offered a health aspect — limited contact.

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— The Department of Workforce Development’s unemployment backlog fell to 7.48 percent from 7.8 percent last week.

That’s equal to about 77,051 unique claimants 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 paid about 540,600 claimants over $4.19 billion since March 15. That’s 3,900 more claimants and $230 million dollars over last week. 

Gov. Tony Evers said in a health briefing yesterday that he thinks the agency will clear up the backlog of unemployment claims by the end of the year. He attributed his optimism to the recent partnership between DWD and Google Cloud that began Oct. 19.

“We’re in the process of doing this,” he said. “We have a goal to clean that up by the end of the year and hopefully before.”

— Also in the health briefing, the state’s top health officials described Wisconsin’s “nightmare scenario” as the state reported its greatest single-day COVID-19 case count and death toll.

Wisconsin reported a record 64 people have died from coronavirus, bringing the death toll to 1,852. The state also broke 5,000 new daily cases for the first time, recording 5,262 cases today.

Wisconsin passed a grim milestone Monday, surpassing 200,000 cases with 100,000 of those happening in the most recent 36 days, according to Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm.

“The trajectory is — 100,000 cases in 36 days in an environment where we still think the large majority of people have not been exposed to the virus — it’s a nightmare scenario frankly that this could get quite a bit worse in the next several weeks and months before it gets better,” said Dr. Ryan Westergaard, the state’s chief medical officer.

— Evers said Wisconsin doesn’t have any other option but for “everybody to step up to the plate” in COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

“Public health is a team sport; we need everybody to step up to the plate,” he said in the briefing. “Make these tough sacrifices and work together to get through these hard times. So wear a mask, stay home, and let’s get back to the basics of fighting this pandemic together.”

When asked if he was proposing a self-imposed lockdown, Evers said whatever it’s called, it’s important.

“If people stay at home, we can call it whatever. I call it saving lives,” he said. “These deaths that we’re having now, and likely in the future because it’s a lagging indicator, can be prevented.

“We can prevent the deaths of people in Wisconsin by staying home,” Evers continued. “If that’s considered a self-imposed lockdown, whatever it is, it’s important.”

He chided a White House that he said has “given up” on stopping COVID-19 and is allowing for more people to die from the virus.

“We’re not giving up here and whatever we can do to encourage people to stay safer at home, we will do that,” he said.

— The on-again, off-again status of the Evers administration’s capacity order hurts the fight against transmission, according to the state’s top health official.

“The ability of it to take hold and do the public health break in transmission that we’re looking for out of a capacity limits order really has not been allowed to work,” Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm said.

A split state appeals court reinstated a temporary injunction Friday preventing enforcement of the order limiting indoor gatherings to 25 percent of a room’s capacity.

“All of these interruptions and the confusion that the injunctions have caused … has really minimized the impact that the order, unfortunately, will have on the public health,” Palm said.

New daily cases are a result of what’s been done up to two weeks prior because an incubation period of COVID-19 is up to 14 days, she added. Hospitalizations and deaths follow as a lagging indicator of cases.

“The broader point remains that people should stay home as much as possible — order or no order, enforceable or not enforceable. It is the safest and best thing we can do to stop the spread of this disease.”

Gov. Tony Evers said as far as local orders, whatever the state can do to be consistent around COVID-19 is helpful whether on the local or national level or on either side of the political aisle.  

“Part of the problem that has put us in this position of having trouble preventing deaths in the state of Wisconsin is that we haven’t had a consistent message,” he said. “Whatever we can do locally amplifies our efforts to make sure people are safe.”

— COVID-19 hospitalizations are at a record 1,385 statewide, according to the Wisconsin Hospital Association’s coronavirus data dashboard.

Intensive care unit patients number a record 339 as of yesterday.

Meanwhile, the Alternative Care Facility at State Fair Park had five patients as of yesterday afternoon. The ACF was designed to serve as an overflow facility for hospitals across the state.

“As we continue to see cases increase, as we continue to break records in the number of hospitalizations, we do anticipate ongoing need for the Alternate Care Facility,” Palm said. 

She noted that the ACF is in close contact with hospitals — answering their questions, helping them think and work through potential transfers and understanding the scope of what the facility can provide. Hospitals use this information to talk with their patients about a possible transfer, she said. 

— Carroll University is celebrating its recently opened Idea Lab with programs for regional business leaders. 

Based in Carroll’s Frontier Hall in Waukesha, the Idea Lab is home to the Analytics and Business Intelligence Consortium at the college’s School of Business. 

ABIC’s first program of the season will be “Data Privacy: Competing in a Digital Economy” on Nov. 18 at 5:30 p.m both in-person and virtually. Speakers will be Bill King, founder of King Innovation, and Sarah Sargent, from the data privacy and cybersecurity practice group at Godfrey & Kahn. 

“Our goal is to create mutually beneficial, meaningful partnerships between businesses and Carroll,” said John Gnadinger, director of ABIC. “We can provide talented scholars and expert business faculty while, in turn, these projects could provide invaluable, experiential learning for our students.”

The Idea Lab includes flexible spaces for conferencing, research, study or individual work with amenities such as high-speed Wi-Fi and high-resolution monitors. It also can serve as an event space with kitchen facilities and catering.

In-person attendees are limited to 20 and are required to socially distance and wear a mask. A virtual link will be provided teh day of the event. Register here:

See the release: 

— The Wisconsin Technology Council says the new “Tech Caucus” deepens its commitment to bringing data, ideas and information to state lawmakers.

Four veteran state lawmakers who have served as leaders on bills advancing Wisconsin’s tech-based economy over time will act as co-chairs of the new caucus. The caucus is not a formal committee of the Legislature.

Sens. Dan Feyen, R-Fond du Lac, and Janis Ringhand, D-Evansville; and Reps. Mike Kuglitsch, R-New Berlin, and Jason Fields, D-Milwaukee, will help to periodically convene like-minded, bipartisan lawmakers to hear about emerging issues in Wisconsin’s tech sectors.

Its goal is to work together along bipartisan lines to bring ideas and information to the attention of state policymakers.

“The Wisconsin Technology Council is pleased to announce the creation of the caucus, which deepens our commitment to bringing carefully vetted data, briefings, policy ideas and science-driven information to the entire state,” said Tom Still, president of the Tech Council.

The independent, non-profit organization has served as a policy advisor to the governor, the Legislature and related state agencies for nearly 20 years. The Tech Council will work with Tech Caucus leadership on educational events and legislative briefings among other things.

See the release: 


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# Exact Sciences buying 2 blood-based cancer screening firms for $2.56B, selling $869M in new stock

# More than $7 Billion Paid in Second Round of CFAP 



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– Farmer Angel Network Hosting “Facing Changing Times” Program 

– Registration Open for Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting 


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– Madison Finance Committee votes to preserve parking staff, rejects police positions

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– Source: Badgers’ game at Nebraska in jeopardy. UW coronavirus positivity rate close to level forcing a shutdown


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– Superior Official: BNSF Will Resume Payments To Homeowners Near Taconite Facility 


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– EDF Renewables Drops Plans For Large Wind Farm in Green County 


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