MON AM News: NorthStar issued $37 million in cooperative funding agreements; Racine health official proposes reinstating local mask mandate

— NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes has been issued two cooperative funding agreements worth $37 million by federal officials to boost production of a material widely used in medical imaging. 

The material — known as molybdenum-99 or Mo-99 — is used to create Technetium-99m. It is used in millions of diagnostic tests each year. NorthStar produces the Mo-99 as well as the systems used for extracting the Tc-99m. 

“We are working aggressively to ensure sustainable domestic Mo-99 supply through dual production and processing hubs for additional capacity and scheduling flexibility,” said Stephen Merrick, president and CEO of the Beloit-based company. 

The U.S. Department of Defense’s National Nuclear Security Administration recently announced the funding in a release. Under the agreements, NorthStar will get $16.3 million to expand its “neutron capture technology” used in the production process, and $20.7 million for a second production effort. 

NorthStar will have to provide matching funds for both of the agreements, a release shows. 

One of NorthStar’s selling points is that it doesn’t need to use highly enriched uranium to produce the Mo-99, unlike the foreign production sources that historically provided Mo-99 to medical facilities in the United States. Highly enriched uranium can be used to create nuclear weapons. 

NorthStar began producing Mo-99 domestically in 2018 and uses a method that involves changing the stable isotope molybdenum-98 into Mo-99. The company has received a total of over $100 million in cooperative agreement funds by the NNSA, a release shows. 

“By combining NNSA’s expertise in nuclear nonproliferation with innovative U.S. manufacturing, Americans will benefit from the health applications of radioisotopes while keeping nuclear risks low and setting a global example,” said NNSA Administrator Jill Hruby.

See the release: 

— Racine Public Health Administrator Dottie-Kay Bowersox has proposed reinstating the city’s indoor face mask ordinance. 

The Racine Common Council has scheduled a meeting for tomorrow evening to vote on the proposal. 

“During this time of heightened awareness due to the dominance of the COVID-19 delta variant and low vaccination rates within the city, it is necessary for an additional prevention measure to be implemented to protect the health of the public,” Bowersox said in a statement. 

Meanwhile, Racine Mayor Cory Mason says local clinics are seeing an increase in the number of people coming in for COVID-19 vaccines after the city launched its gift card incentive program. 

“As COVID cases and hospitalization of unvaccinated people continue to rise, we continue to make vaccination opportunities available throughout our community,” Mason said in a statement. “Between the city’s $100 gift card incentives, and the additional $100 incentive from the state, city residents are now eligible for up to $200 in gift cards if they get vaccinated before September 6th.” 

Shannon Powell, the mayor’s chief of staff and communications director for the city, said city officials have given out more than 1,000 gift cards in less than 10 days. 

Racine residents who are already vaccinated can get additional $50 gift cards if they bring other residents along to be vaccinated. Powell said city residents are being “industrious” by bringing in multiple people to get extra gift cards, adding “we are fine with that.” 

A number of pop-up clinics have been scheduled in Racine between Aug. 28 and Sept. 3. 

The Department of Health Services site shows 51 percent of Racine County residents have gotten at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, while 47.4 percent of the county’s population have completed the vaccine series. Statewide, 54.3 percent of Wisconsin residents have gotten at least one dose and 51.1 percent have completed the vaccine series. 

See Bowersox’s statement: 

— Dairyland Power Cooperative has announced plans to purchase a natural gas power plant in Cambridge from an affiliate of a Connecticut-based private equity firm, Starwood Energy Group Global. 

Acquiring the RockGen Energy Center furthers Dairyland’s efforts to transition to more renewable energy sources, according to a release. The acquisition is expected to be finalized by the end of the year once the purchase agreement is approved. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed. 

“Safely delivering reliable and sustainable electricity to our members is critical as we continue to diversify Dairyland’s energy portfolio and lower carbon intensity,” said Brent Ridge, president and CEO of La Crosse-based Dairyland. 

The RockGen Energy Center has been operational since 2001, relying mainly on natural gas, though the facility design can support “intermittent solar and wind resources,” the release shows. 

See the release: 

— Marcus Corporation CEO Greg Marcus will be the featured speaker at an upcoming Newsmaker Luncheon event, being held Thursday by the Milwaukee Press Club and 

Marcus will discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the entertainment industry, including movie theaters, hotels and restaurants, as well as downtown Milwaukee’s ongoing recovery from last year’s economic downturn. 

He will also answer questions posed by a panel of reports and audience members. The luncheon will take place from 11:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Newsroom Pub in Milwaukee. 

See registration details here: 


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