TUE AM News: November home sales down slightly over the year; DHS issues advisory warning of ‘rapid increase in disease activity’ due to omicron

— November home sales in Wisconsin were down 0.8 percent over the year, the latest report from the Wisconsin Realtors Association shows. 

A total of 7,714 homes were sold last month in Wisconsin, according to the report, compared to 7,774 homes sold in November 2020. 

“Very tight inventory continues to be a drag on sales, so it’s quite remarkable that we are essentially even with last year’s record pace,” Mary Duff, chair of the board of directors for the WRA, said in the report. “The flip side is that the mismatch between weak supply and strong demand, especially among millennials, has kept the pressure on prices, with median prices up 9.5 percent year to date.”

The number of statewide home listings in November was 7 percent lower over the year. The report shows 20,036 active home listings in November, compared to 21,546 listings one year prior. The report also highlights a 10 percent decrease in the state’s inventory levels based on months of inventory, which fell from three months to 2.7 months over the year, the report shows. 

Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s median home price increased 7.6 percent year-over-year, rising from $223,000 to $240,000. And median prices in all regions of the state increased on a year-to-date basis, though the southeast region saw the smallest boost with 6.8 percent. The central region saw an increase of 9.1 percent, while median prices increased by between 11.5 and 13.5 percent in all other regions. 

WRA President and CEO Michael Theo notes mortgage rates remain “very low by historical standards” despite increasing slightly this year after reaching record-low levels in December 2020. He says this trend has helped keep housing affordable in the state, though he adds these rates are expected to increase in 2022. 

See the full report: https://www.wisbusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/November-2021-Statistics-and-Data-Charts-combined.pdf 

— State health officials have issued a public health advisory warning the omicron variant of COVID-19 is spreading in Wisconsin and is expected to “cause a rapid increase in disease activity” in the coming weeks. 

“We are at another critical moment in this pandemic,” Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake said yesterday during a media briefing. 

The advisory calls on all state residents to take various actions to help “prevent or minimize the impending surge in hospitalizations and deaths.” These include getting vaccinated and receiving a booster dose when eligible, wearing a mask indoors when near those outside the household, keeping holiday gatherings small, getting tested before the holidays and staying home if any COVID-19 symptoms arise. 

“What each of us chooses to do in the next few weeks really matters,” Timberlake said. “There is a serious risk that continued increased numbers of COVID-19 cases will overwhelm an already strained health care system.” 

Officials have identified 19 cases of the omicron variant in Wisconsin so far, but only about 5 percent of confirmed positive cases from PCR tests are being sequenced to determine the specific strain. Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer for the DHS Bureau of Communicable Diseases, says it’s difficult to estimate how many cases of the new variant are circulating due to this small sample size. 

Timberlake indicated the state is not considering reopening a temporary field hospital to help ease the strain on hospitals nearing the brink of overcapacity. 

“While we were very fortunate to have the field hospital and certainly did have numbers of patients need to use it last spring, what we’re finding is that certainly patients prefer to receive care as close to home as possible … the issue really is staffing,” she said. “It’s less about brick-and-mortar facilities that are needed.” 

In response to a question about the potential for mass booster clinics, Timberlake noted nearly 2,000 people in the state are enrolled as vaccinators. She added “there are a great number of sites available” to get either primary series doses or boosters, including “numbers of public clinics, if you will, that serve as that kind of mass vaccination opportunity.” 

Meanwhile, the latest seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin was 3,294, the DHS dashboard shows. Despite the presence of omicron in the state, the delta variant continues to be the dominant strain amid the ongoing surge. 

See the advisory: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/dph/memos/communicable-diseases/2021-12.pdf 

See the release: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/news/releases/122021.htm 

— Marshfield Clinic Health System Chief Medical Officer Dr. William Melms says the system’s Marshfield facility has been turning away over 100 referrals per week due to staffing limitations. 

“Space is tight in our facilities, but mostly we just don’t have the staff to care for everyone who needs our help,” he said yesterday during the DHS briefing. “As I tell my teams, we can always create more space — which we do. But we cannot create the people to care for our patients.” 

He noted “we have discontinued all elective surgeries” that require an in-patient bed, while an entire floor at the Marshfield facility has been converted to an in-patient unit. And a medical ICU there has been converted into COVID-19 ICU with twice as many beds. 

“We have moved out-patient staff to help on the in-patient side,” he said. “We have looked for staff everywhere. We’ve taken them from the department of education, from our quality department, from our care retention department — from everywhere that we possibly can to take care of the demands on our staff. But it’s not enough. It’s not nearly enough.” 

The Wisconsin Hospital Association site shows 1,664 patients with COVID-19 are currently hospitalized in the state, including 423 intensive care patients. Officials on the call said 96 percent of intensive care beds and 98 percent of intermediate care beds in the state are in use. 

Timberlake said 415 staff members have been placed at hospitals and long-term care facilities in Wisconsin through the state’s medical staffing contract. These workers typically stay in those positions for about 90 days, she said. She also highlighted “very productive discussions” with federal officials related to the state’s request for FEMA workers to come help staff the state’s beleaguered health system. 

“We are continuing to make good progress and look forward to having more to say about that soon,” she said. 

— The state Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal in a lawsuit challenging the powers of Dane County’s health official to issue COVID-19 orders without approval from the full county board.

The court’s ruling came down the same day the Public Health of Madison and Dane County director extended a mask mandate another month to early February.

The conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, the legal counsel in the suit, asked the justices to take original action in the initial case. But the court rejected that request in a 4-3 ruling.

A Dane County judge upheld the powers of the Public Health of Madison and Dane County director to issue the orders.

WILL then filed a petition to bypass the appeals court, and that request was granted yesterday.

In extending the mask mandate, the city and county public health director cited rising cases and hospitalizations.

See the state Supreme Court order:


See the health order:


— Gov. Tony Evers has announced an agreement allowing sports betting at St. Croix Chippewa Indian casinos and affiliate locations.

The compact amendment now heads to the U.S. Department of Interior for a 45-day review. The new agreement to allow event wagering on sports and non-sports events at St. Croix casinos comes after a similar contract allowing event wagering at Oneida Nation casinos in July. The Oneida deal was the first agreement in Wisconsin to allow such event wagering.

Evers and St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin Chairman William Reynolds celebrated the deal they say will improve the tribe’s economy.

“Event wagering will bring new opportunities for employment and revenue growth to the Tribe and provide a welcome boost to our recovering tourism and entertainment industries,” Evers said in a release.

Reynolds added the deal marks an exciting time for St. Croix Chippewa Indians.

“The addition of sports wagering at the St. Croix Casinos will give our tribe the ability to give our customers the most comprehensive gaming experience in the state of Wisconsin,” he said.

See the release:

— A California-based company providing government operations software plans to add 65 full-time workers at its Milwaukee offices. 

OpenGov plans to have 100 employees in Milwaukee within three years, according to a release from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. WEDC has authorized up to $350,000 in business development tax credits for the company if it “meets its job creation commitment” within three years. 

The release shows the business opened its Milwaukee location last year in the Global Water Center through a space-sharing agreement with Marquette University. Company President David Reeves says OpenGov will have 36 employees at the site by the end of the year. The company also plans to make a $400,000 investment in offices and equipment, WEDC says.

“It is a young, exciting workspace,” Reeves said in the release. “We are building a culture and excitement that’s stereotypical of Silicon Valley.”

With locations in six U.S. cities, the company has nearly 500 employees overall and has raised more than $140 million from venture capital firms, according to WEDC. Its software is used by more than 1,000 city, county and state agencies around the country for budgeting, accounting and other financial operations. 

See the release: https://wedc.org/blog/software-firm-growing-milwaukee-office-with-wedc-help/ 

— The Sand County Foundation is getting a three-year, $300,000 grant to boost adoption of regenerative agriculture practices in Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan watershed. 

This approach incorporates elements of environmental conservation, such as improving biodiversity and topsoil quality, resilience to climate change impacts and more. 

The foundation’s project, titled “Fostering Technical Assistance to Advance Regenerative Agriculture in the Lake Michigan Basin,” will help farmers develop conservation plans and metrics for studying the impact of these practices on factors like water quality. A release shows 15,000 acres of land will be used in the project. 

Grant funding is coming from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Sustain Our Great Lakes Program. It’s being matched dollar-for-dollar by contributions raised by the foundation, a release shows. Other partners in the project include General Mills and the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. 

Heidi Peterson, the foundation’s vice president of agricultural conservation and research, says farmers in the region are interested in the potential benefits of regenerative agriculture, but may be unsure of the risks involved. 

“A performance-based conservation incentive system that is based on measured environmental outcomes and promoted by farmer-led watershed groups, can accelerate adoption of regenerative agriculture while leveraging conservation funding for farmers,” she said in the release.  

See more project details:  https://www.wispolitics.com/2021/sand-county-foundation-receives-grant-to-accelerate-the-adoption-of-regenerative-agriculture/ 

— Thirty-four organizations in Wisconsin will be splitting $1 million in grants from the WHEDA Foundation for efforts to provide more low-income housing and emergency shelter options. 

According to a release from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, this year’s grants will create or improve 865 beds and housing units in the state while supporting construction jobs at the local level. Awards range from $4,200 to $50,000 per recipient. 

The foundation’s grants are meant to improve housing options for those with disabilities and chronic mental illness, domestic abuse survivors, homeless youth and individuals with incomes at or below 30 percent of the area median income. Along with new beds being made available, projects will provide new furnaces, air conditioning, roofing and ventilation systems and more. 

The release shows WHEDA got 60 applications for the housing grant funding requesting more than $2.3 million in funding. 

See the release: https://www.wisbusiness.com/2021/wisconsin-housing-and-economic-development-authority-gov-evers-wheda-announce-1-million-in-wheda-foundation-grants-for-emergency-and-extremely-low-income-housing/ 


# Shuttered Wisconsin Rapids paper mill could be sold off following Verso acquisition


# Milwaukee area continues to lag peers in venture capital

# Q&A: Fern Orie helps Native communities grow financially




– Wisconsin Jr. Holstein DJM recipients named


– Wisconsin farms received $50 million in state support program



– More CWD confirmations in Portage, Vilas Counties


– Intertribal agency faults Wisconsin review of Line 5 reroute

– Wisconsin state parks battered as Lake Michigan shrinks beaches, smashes boardwalks



– Black Shoe Hospitality’s new ‘Buttermint’ restaurant brings finer dining, mid-century nostalgia to Shorewood


– Wisconsin Department of Health Services issues public health advisory pleading people to take precautions with omicron variant


– COVID-19 surge could further overwhelm health care system, Wisconsin officials say


– Dane County to hold public hearing over mask mandate


– After outreach, 91% of local Latinos 12 and up have at least one COVID shot



– Green Bay paper mill expansion will add 150 new jobs



– Dettmer named interim DPW commissioner


– Manufacturer to move into former Chr. Hansen food color building in Mukwonago



– River Hills picks developer for 51-lot subdivision, but opposition remains


– New Land says Ascent seeing ‘unprecedented’ early renter interest


– Performance hall near Summerfest could get city hearings under alderman’s requested rezoning



– Chippewa County to host 2024 Farm Technology Days


– WEDC authorizes tax credits for OpenGov expansion in Milwaukee

– Robot server helps fill staff gap at Shanghai Bistro



– Growing e-commerce logistics startup Atomix was born from a longstanding Milwaukee firm



– Intertribal agency raises concerns with state’s draft review of a proposed oil pipeline reroute


– Intertribal agency faults Wisconsin review of Line 5 reroute



<i>See these and other press releases: 

https://www.wisbusiness.com/press-releases/ </i>

Gov. Evers: Announces more than 20,000 farmers receive $50 million through 2021 Farm Support Program

WEDC: Software firm growing Milwaukee office with WEDC help