WED AM News: Task force leaders say energy sector has role in carbon-free electricity by 2050; COVID-19 cases from in-person election to be reported this week

— Leaders of Gov. Tony Evers’ Task Force on Climate Change highlighted the energy sector’s role in reaching the state’s carbon-free electricity goal by 2050 during’s virtual event, “Earth Day: the Next 50 Years.” 

“It is more than a plausible scenario for us to get to 100 percent carbon free by 2050 — I think we can actually beat that goal,” Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, chair of the task force said yesterday. “I absolutely think it’s realistic. Is it going to be a challenge? Of course. Is it going to be easy? No.” 

Rep. Mike Kuglitsch, chair of the Assembly Committee on Energy and Utilities as well as a task force member, said while some utility companies have a goal to reduce carbon by 80 percent or 100 percent by 2050, there is a “caveat.”

“Currently there is just not the technology to get to zero carbon, now, people believe it’s coming, but as of today, that’s just not reality,” he said. “It comes back to: it’s not always sunny and it’s not always windy. We need base load, what’s 24/7? How are we going to get there? A lot of people talk about battery storage, a lot of people think it’s coming… but it’s not here now.”

Barnes argued that everything Wisconsin needs to make zero carbon happen is available and “right down the street,” noting that UW-Madison, a world class research institution, is a driver to reach the state’s goal. Barnes also referenced new power lines that could bring wind and solar energy from surrounding states such as Iowa.

However, Kuglitsch said Wisconsin is on a positive trend towards more renewable energy adding that throughout his seven years as the energy chair, renewables have grown due to economic efficiency. 

Read the full story at

See the program, which also includes an expert panel:  

See more on Earth Day from, including an interview with the Outrider Foundation’s Tia Nelson, daughter of Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, a former Wisconsin governor and U.S. senator:

— Data on COVID-19 transmission during the in-person election and related confirmed cases should be reported late this week.

According to Milwaukee Commissioner of Health Dr. Jeanette Kowalik, the Department of Health Services added ‘election activity’ to its list of coronavirus investigation questions to find anyone who may have voted in person or worked at a polling place on April 7.  

“We are also looking at any new cases that began after 4/7 as the incubation period is 14 days,” she said. That incubation period ended Tuesday. 

A spokeswoman for the Milwaukee County Health Department said that it is confirming seven cases as of Monday. 

“Please note that we only have 30 percent of the data back from new cases as of 4/7 and on,” said Kowalik. “We hope to have these fields complete by Friday and will provide a more complete report then.”

She said reasons for the delay may be that the patient declined to provide information, lab delays in processing slowed the investigation or the patient just recently experienced symptoms.

“While we continue to monitor cases of COVID-19 linked to election activity, we know that gatherings such as this (the election) are detrimental to the efforts to slow the spread of this pandemic,” said Dr. Ben Weston, medical director at the Milwaukee Office of Emergency Management. “We encourage everyone to continue to practice responsible social distancing.”

— Gov Tony Evers says businesses in certain areas of the state may be able to open up earlier than May 26 if indicators are favorable. 

“There may be chances that before the 26th, that there are areas that make sense that we open up and we’re more than open to those things,” he said yesterday during a webinar hosted by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. “Frankly, I am very hopeful.” 

In a conversation with MMAC President Tim Sheehy, Evers noted parts of northern Wisconsin are seeing very few positive cases, especially compared to Milwaukee. But he added that most infected people are asymptomatic, and guaranteed that every county in the state has COVID-19 infections. 

Still, he conceded “there may be ways that we can use that small number to identify businesses and industries that could open.” At the same time, Evers pointed to some challenges with reopening the economies of certain Wisconsin regions earlier than others. 

“In northern Wisconsin, they are the least-resourced to respond to a surge. And also … most of them are frankly my age, and the most susceptible,” said Evers, who is 68. “But if something seems logical and we’re making progress, we will consider that.” 

In response to Sheehy highlighting the uncertainty and frustration among many in the business community, Evers pointed to the metrics for dialing up the economy laid out in the “Badger Bounce Back” plan. 

“The bottom line is that, given where we are with the data that we have now, we’ve got a long way to go. That’s why we picked [a date] that’s far out,” he said. “We’re evaluating this as we go along. If we get to those three criteria by May 14, then we celebrate and move forward.” 

— By ramping up the number of contact tracers working to identify the virus’ transmission path in Wisconsin, Evers says the state can move more quickly toward a phased reopening of the economy. 

“I’m absolutely confident that we, in a relatively short period of time, can drive down those numbers so we can get those 14 days,” he said yesterday, referring to one of the targets in the recently released plan for restarting Wisconsin’s economy. 

During the MMAC webinar, Evers said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a team on the ground in Wisconsin that will respond to “hot spots” for the virus. 

“We have one in Green Bay at a meat packing firm where several people are turning up COVID-19 positive,” he said. “CDC is there, and they’re going to remain here in the state. That’s a good thing. CDC is also going to be helping with contact tracing.” 

Evers touched on the state’s plan to hire 1,000 contact tracers, adding that “seems like a big number.” But he says he’s confident it can be reached, and the Medical College of Wisconsin has pledged to help out with that effort. 

“If we want to get to the point where we’re not boxing in people, but we’re actually boxing in the virus, we need to have these contact tracers working with people who have been shown to be positive,” he said. 

— Wisconsin is close to reaching Gov. Tony Evers’ “Badger Bounce Back’’ goal of lab capacity for 85,000 COVID-19 tests per week or about 12,000 tests per day.  

The current lab capacity, according to the Department of Health Services, is about 50,666 tests per week or 7,238 per day. After the agreement signed yesterday with private labs, the capacity will reach 80,666 COVID-19 tests per week or about 11,523 tests per day. 

“Exact Sciences is devoting a significant portion of its lab capacity and resources to COVID-19 test processing,” Evers said in a recent DHS call. Exact will provide the state with about 20,000 tests and processing each week.

In addition, Marshfield Clinic Health Systems will be working on “ramping up” to process 10,000 tests per week. 

— Wisconsin’s death toll has hit 242, 12 more than the previous report.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s case count is up 121, bringing the state’s total to 4,620.

Of the confirmed cases, 27 percent were hospitalized, 7 percent received intensive care and 5 percent have died, according to DHS.

DHS’s hospital dashboard reports 358 COVID patients in hospitals statewide with 137 of those ICU COVID-19 patients. 

Counties reporting the most deaths are Milwaukee (139), Dane (19), Waukesha (13), Racine (10) and Ozaukee (9). 

Walworth County reports seven deaths and Kenosha County reports six. Rock County reports four deaths. Fond du Lac, Grant, Sauk and Washington counties report three deaths each.

Brown, Outagamie and Sheboygan counties report two deaths each.

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

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

Patients over the age of 50 account for 54 percent of confirmed cases, 79 percent of hospitalizations, 83 percent of intensive care patients and 93 percent of deaths. 

Nineteen percent of patients who have tested positive for coronavirus are between the ages of 50-59. This is followed by people 60-69 (16 percent), 40-49 (16 percent) and 30-39 (15 percent).

Seven percent of the people infected by COVID-19 live in a long term care facility and 2 percent live in a group housing facility. Fifty-five percent are unknown. 

In Wisconsin, women make up 53 percent of the confirmed cases and account for 42 percent of deaths due to COVID-19. Meanwhile, men make up 47 percent of confirmed cases, but account for 58 percent of deaths.

The African American community makes up 24 percent of the state’s confirmed cases, but account for 34 percent of deaths due to COVID-19. 

Click here for coronavirus resources and information: 


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