TUE AM News: State calls for more vaccines from federal government; DWD Secretary signs Work-Share Program waiver

— Gov. Tony Evers and the Department of Health Services are calling on the federal government to increase the state’s weekly COVID-19 vaccine dose allocation. 

The state is getting about 70,000 doses per week from the federal government, health officials said last week. This week, Wisconsin needs more than 10,000 additional doses to fulfill requests from vaccinating entities across the state.

This is the first time the state’s demand will exceed its supply. DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said she expects the trend to continue. 

However, the state has about 115,000 doses that have been shipped to the state but haven’t been administered, according to DHS’ vaccine dashboard.

Willems Van Dijk said the discrepancy happens because the total number accounts for all vaccines that will be administered throughout the entire week. She said that while they’re always looking at ways to speed up the process, there will always be about a week’s worth of vaccines on shelves waiting to go into people’s arms. 

She added about one-third of vaccines have been administered, one-third are on shelves or in transit and another third is being held for the state’s long-term care pharmacy program. 

“That’s the biggest discrepancy between that shift and the number you see,” Willems Van Dijk said. “This is a pretty complex process that happens every week. The biggest challenge is that we need more vaccines.” 

In about three weeks of vaccine allocation and distribution, Wisconsin has built up 1,098 vaccine provider locations ready to give vaccinations throughout the state in order to finish the first phase of vaccinations and move on to the next. 

“In a state where our statewide mitigation strategies have been struck down and challenged time and time again, it is absolutely critical that Wisconsin get additional doses of vaccine to meet demand and box in the virus,” said Gov. Tony Evers.

About 550,000 Wisconsinites qualify for the first phase of vaccinations: health care workers and nursing home and assisted living facility residents and staff.

The State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee has proposed populations for the second phase. Those will be released for public comment starting Wednesday, according to the guv’s release. 

DHS followed the committee’s first-phase recommendations completely. Willems Van Dijk said DHS is eager to read the report, hear the public comment and make its final decision after those steps. 

— DHS said 30,000 police officers and firefighters likely will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine beginning Monday. The law enforcement population likely will be included in the committee’s proposal. 

That begins the first step into the second phase for Wisconsin’s vaccination plan.

“Our goal is to get vaccine to everyone in Wisconsin who wants it as quickly and safely as possible,” DHS Secretary Andrea Palm said. “Our systems are up and running, now we need more vaccine to get through as many Wisconsinites who want to protect themselves against COVID-19 as possible.”

She’s also urging everyone to continue wearing masks, washing hands, and socially distancing as the state vaccinates its residents.

— Wisconsin reported 1,456 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the seven-day average for daily confirmed cases up slightly to 2,915 from 2,908.

On Jan. 4, the seven-day average was at 2,255. The record, hit Nov. 18, was 6,563 cases per day. 

The state also reported five new deaths among confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the death toll to 5,162, and marking 278 deaths since Jan 4. By comparison, the week leading up to Jan. 4 saw 173 deaths.

And both the state’s COVID-19 hospitalizations and intensive care numbers are down from the week before. Hospitalized coronavirus patients number 999, according to the Wisconsin Hospital Association. The total is comparable to mid-October’s census. ICU patients number 219, a new low since early October.

— Dr. Chris Green of UW-Health will serve as WHA’s chief medical officer following the retirement of Dr. Mark Kaufman. 

A pediatric pulmonologist, Green has been a practicing physician with UW-Madison since 1983. Most recently, he was the senior vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer of UW Hospital and Clinics. 

“Dr. Green will be a great addition to the WHA team,” WHA President and CEO Eric Borgerding said. “We look forward to his leadership as Wisconsin hospitals and health systems respond to and work toward overcoming the long-term challenges posed by COVID-19.”

Green said he looks forward to supporting physicians and hospitals around the state.

“Today’s health care universe is complex. Working together we will improve the health of Wisconsin’s citizens, improve our hospitals and health care systems and support our providers,” he said.

— A Senate committee on a party-line 3-2 vote yesterday approved a scaled-back COVID-19 bill that GOP Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu plans to put on the floor today.

The Senate Republicans’ amended version of the Assembly’s COVID-19 bill would drop provisions that would bar employers from requiring a vaccine as a condition of employment, among others. 

While the amended bill pulls out some provisions from an Assembly bill that were expected to draw opposition from Gov. Tony Evers, LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, acknowledged he wasn’t sure the new version would win the guv’s support.

A spokeswoman for Evers didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

LeMahieu told the committee most of the provisions in the amended bill were extensions of the COVID-19 legislation that passed both houses last spring and was signed into law by the guv. He said another eight were also included in the bill that Evers released last month and portrayed as a compromise with GOP legislative leaders, though LeMahieu and Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, disputed that.

The amended Senate bill includes two provisions that LeMahieu said go “above and beyond” the guv’s bill:

*One would allow the designation of an “essential visitor” for those who are in nursing homes and assisted living facilities to ensure someone could see them in person amid restrictions on visits during the pandemic.

*The second is a provision that would provide liability protections for schools, churches, non-profits, businesses and others.

Both provisions were also in the bill that cleared the Assembly last week.

“We need to make sure that they’re protected from frivolous lawsuits. That’s what we’re trying to solve with this,” LeMahieu said.

— Before they face off in the Feb. 16 primary, the state’s seven schools superintendent candidates each participated in a focused discussion around computer science education in Wisconsin. 

The webcast conversation was done in partnership with the Milwaukee Tech Hub Coalition, WisPolitics.com and WisBusiness.com.

The top two candidates in the Feb. 16 primary will go on to the April 6 general election. The winner will succeed Carolyn Stanford Taylor, who passed on running for the office she was appointed to by Gov. Tony Evers, who led the Department of Public Instruction before he was elected governor.

Watch all seven candidate interviews: https://www.wisbusiness.com/category/state-superintendent-webcasts/ 

— Department of Workforce Development Secretary Amy Pechacek waived the requirement that work-share plans operate no longer than six months for any work unit in a five-year period.

By signing this waiver, work-share plans may extend up to 12 months during a five-year period within the same work unit. 

The move ensures that DWD and Wisconsin employers receive the maximum amount of federal funds made available under the federal CARES Act and the Continued Assistance for Unemployed Workers Act of 2020, according to the agency’s release. 

The Work-Share Program, also called “short-term compensation,” is designed to help both employers and employees. Instead of laying off workers, a participating employer may reduce their work hours. Workers whose hours are reduced under an approved plan receive unemployment benefits that are pro-rated for the partial work reduction. This allows everyone in the work unit to maintain some income and health benefits.

“Work-Share experienced record use in 2020 as employers aimed to retain and protect their workforce amidst the economic challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Pechacek said. 

Demand for the program skyrocketed in 2020, she said. In the four years leading up to March 15, Wisconsin had only 20 total work-share plans involving 899 participants. Between March 15 and Dec. 15, DWD approved nearly 1,000 work-share plans covering more than 34,000 participants.

The waiver is effective for unemployment weeks ending Jan. 2 through March 13 of this year. It will only apply to participants in work-share plans until the federal funding for their benefit is exhausted.

— The latest episode of “WisBusiness: The Show” spotlights entrepreneurs Que and Khalif El-Amin, founders of Milwaukee’s Young Enterprising Society.

The society helps students and young professionals in the city’s urban core hone technical and entrepreneurial skills. 

Wisconsin Technology Council President Tom Still also presents key indicators and events in the Wisconsin economy. He’ll preview upcoming Tech Council webinars and opportunities, such as the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest, which deadlines Jan. 31.

See the show: https://www.wisbusiness.com/2021/wisbusiness-the-show-features-milwaukees-el-amin-brothers/ 

— Madison-based TDS Telecommunications and other telephone companies statewide are teaming up to offer $500-$1,500 scholarships to Wisconsin high school seniors.

In 2020, the Wisconsin State Telecommunications Foundation awarded $53,000 to 42 students. The foundation, which is part of the Wisconsin State Telecommunications Association, has awarded over $1.6 million in scholarships to more than 1,300 students since 1966.

“TDS is proud to support high school seniors as they pursue a degree in higher education,” said Jean Pauk, state government affairs manager at TDS. “Through the Wisconsin State Telecommunications Foundation scholarship program, our goal is to help ease the financial burden of college for the young people in the communities we serve.”

Know a graduating senior? They can apply online: https://www.wsta.info/page/FoundationApp 


# Evers estimates public won’t see vaccine until June 

# DWD Unable To Say When New Unemployment Benefits Will Be Set Up For PUA, PEUC 


# Visit Milwaukee launches virtual Giving Fest to support Milwaukee hospitality organizations 




– McKinney says Canada is violating dairy provisions of USMCA https://brownfieldagnews.com/news/mckinney-says-canada-is-violating-dairy-provisions-of-usmca/ 


– Survey: Most Wisconsin Schools Were Virtual In Spring 2020, Though Many Struggled https://www.wpr.org/survey-most-wisconsin-schools-were-virtual-spring-2020-though-many-struggled 


– PPP Reopens For Businesses Serviced By Small Community Lenders https://www.wpr.org/ppp-reopens-businesses-serviced-small-community-lenders 


– Milwaukee Opens Convention Center To Begin Public Employee COVID-19 Vaccinations


– Wisconsin DOC reveals which prisons have had COVID-19 deaths for first time


– Wisconsin lawmakers split along party lines over who’s to blame for vaccine rollout delays https://biztimes.com/wisconsin-lawmakers-split-along-party-lines-over-whos-to-blame-for-vaccine-rollout-delays/ 

– Dr. Raymond: Covid-19 hospitalization trends look good but may hit roadblock https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2021/01/11/dr-raymond-covid-hospitalization-trends-look-good.html 


– SCOTUS declines to expedite Trump election challenges

– Wisconsin Supreme Court Says Lawmakers Can Intervene In 2 Cases Involving DNR’s Authority



– Milwaukee Tool plans to nearly double space in Menomonee Falls technology center https://biztimes.com/milwaukee-tool-plans-to-nearly-double-space-in-menomonee-falls-technology-center/ 


– Wisconsin Senate Unveils Pared-Down COVID-19 Response Bill


– St. Croix GOP refuses to remove ‘prepare for war’ post


– Competing developers have big ideas for Blanchard Street parking lot redevelopment in Wauwatosa village https://biztimes.com/competing-developers-have-big-ideas-for-blanchard-street-municipal-parking-lot-redevelopment-in-wauwatosa/ 

– 140 apartments floated for Marquette University’s downtown development site https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2021/01/11/140-apartments-floated-for-marquette-downtown-site.html 


– Dane County issues new public health order, increases outdoor gathering limits


– Outlook for Pick ‘n Save parent Kroger is dimming in 2021, analyst says https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2021/01/11/kroger-s-outlook-is-dimming-analyst-says.html 


– IBM acquires Milwaukee tech company 7Summits https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2021/01/11/ibm-acquires-milwaukee-company-7summits.html 

– Exact Sciences anticipates 2020 revenue of about $1.49B https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2021/01/11/exact-sciences-anticipates-2020-revenue-around.html 


– Mount Pleasant to pursue convention center development https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2021/01/11/mount-pleasant-to-pursue-convention-center.html 


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