TUE AM News: Utilities say customers will pay more for heating bills this winter; September median home price up 6.6 percent over the year

— Utilities in Wisconsin are projecting heating bills will be as much $65 per month higher this winter as a worldwide natural gas shortage drives up prices in the United States. 

We Energies, which has more than 1.1 million electric customers and 1.1 million natural gas customers, says residential customers will likely pay $25 more per month than last year to heat their homes assuming “typical winter weather.” 

Wisconsin Public Service says its typical residential customer will pay $40 more per month this winter compared to last year. Both We Energies and WPS are part of WEC Energy Group, which provides utility services to millions of customers in its Midwest service area through a number of subsidiaries. 

Matt Cullen, a spokesperson for WEC Energy Group, says WPS has a “multi-pronged approach of buying and storing natural gas” when it’s less expensive, as well as “locking in guaranteed contracts for natural gas at fixed prices.” He told WisBusiness.com the company estimates the increase in heating costs would be 25 percent higher without those measures.

“It’s also important to note that natural gas is a pass-through expense — WPS does not earn a profit on the natural gas it purchases for its customers,” he said in an email. We Energies had a similar statement in its release. 

Xcel Energy, another large utility company providing natural gas services in the state, told WisBusiness.com that its customers could be paying as much as $65 more per month for heat between November and March.  

“In general, production has not yet rebounded from the pandemic and there’s greater demand for natural gas both within the country and for exports,” said company spokesperson Chris Ouellette in an email. “Prices are expected to moderate once supply and demand come back into balance.” 

Meanwhile, Madison Gas and Electric Communications Manager Steve Schultz says the company’s customers will see an increase of between $25 and $30 to monthly home heating bills this winter. MGE provides natural gas service to 166,000 customers in seven south central Wisconsin counties, and also charges customers what it pays for natural gas without a markup. 

See more: https://www.wisbusiness.com/2021/utilities-say-customers-will-pay-more-for-heating-bills-this-winter/ 

— The median home price in Wisconsin was 6.6 percent higher in September than the same month last year, according to the latest report from the Wisconsin Realtors Association. 

The report shows the median home price last month was $245,000, compared to $229,900 in September 2020. Over the same period, the total number of statewide listings and home sales decreased by 9.5 and 8.6 percent, respectively. 

Last month, 24,893 homes were listed in Wisconsin, which is down from 27,499 over the year. And 8,470 homes were sold last month, compared to 9,268 in the previous September, the report found. More than a third of the homes sold were in the state’s southeast region, followed by the south central and northeast regions with 18 and 19 percent, respectively. Other regions had between 7 and 10 percent of the state’s overall home sales. 

Michael Theo, president and CEO of the WRA, says home price increases have fallen below 7 percent for the past two months after the state saw double-digit increases “for all but one month” between July of last year and this July. 

“Although mortgage rates are still quite favorable, the steep price increases over the past year have likely moderated demand, and as a result, some of the pressure on home prices,” Theo said in a statement. “This moderation should help keep Wisconsin housing relatively affordable for potential buyers.”

See the report: https://www.wispolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/September-2021-Statistics-and-Data-Charts-combined.pdf 

— COVID-19 infections and related deaths continue to rise at nursing homes in Wisconsin, the latest numbers from AARP show. 

Over the four weeks ending Sept. 19, the rate of COVID-19 deaths more than doubled from 0.05 to 0.11 per 100 residents, according to the organization’s nursing home dashboard. At least 20 nursing home residents in Wisconsin died from the virus during that period, a release from AARP Wisconsin shows. 

The state’s increase matches the national rate, and more than 2,000 residents across the country died from COVID-19 in the same four-week period. 

Meanwhile, the number of infections among residents jumped from 0.3 to 0.9 per 100 residents, with a total of 162 cases. And cases among nursing home staff increased from 1.5 to 2.5 per 100 residents. The release shows 16.5 percent of nursing homes in the state have reported virus cases in the latest data period. 

AARP Wisconsin State Director Sam Wilson notes these numbers would be higher without vaccines and points to “the importance of continuing access to COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots for eligible residents and staff.” 

The number of nursing homes with at least 75 percent of staff vaccinated is increasing, reaching 27.8 percent of facilities in the state at latest count. That number was 21.5 percent in mid-August. Vaccination rates among residents rose over the same period from 86.5 percent to 87.7 percent, and from 62.4 percent to 65 percent among staff. 

The AARP data also show that just over half of nursing homes in Wisconsin are short-staffed, while 5.1 percent are reporting “an urgent need” for more personal protective equipment.

See the AARP dashboard here: https://www.aarp.org/ppi/issues/caregiving/info-2020/nursing-home-covid-dashboard.html?cmp=RDRCT-350d888f-20201013 

See the release: https://www.wisbusiness.com/2021/new-aarp-analysis-covid-19-deaths-in-wisconsin-nursing-homes-doubled-from-aug-to-sept-2021/ 

— Children’s Wisconsin says a new clinic planned for the Appleton area will reduce the need for patients in the region to travel elsewhere for care. 

The hospital system says it conducts 50,000 patient visits per year among children living in northeastern Wisconsin, but only about 20,000 of those visits are done at local clinics. The other 30,000 visits are in the Milwaukee region. 

The new facility will be able to support up to 70,000 visits per year, the release shows. 

“Expanding services at locations that are closer to where families live supports our efforts to provide more personalized and integrated care,” said Gail Ostrander, vice president of northeast regional services for Children’s Wisconsin.

Construction on the 50,000-square-foot clinic will begin this fall, and it’s expected to open in 2023. The Milwaukee-based Hammes Company, Madison-based Miron Construction Co, and Kahler Slater of Madison are partners on the project. 

Clinical services currently offered at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah and the Children’s Wisconsin Fox Valley Child Advocacy Center will be consolidated there, the release shows. The ThedaCare hospital site in Neenah will continue to be operated by Children’s Wisconsin. 

See the release: https://childrenswi.org/newshub/stories/new-childrens-wisconsin-clinic-coming-to-appleton 

— Researchers at UW-Madison have found that fasting may play a key role in the health benefits associated with calorie restriction.

Earlier studies had shown that “long-term calorie restriction” led to better measurements of health in animal models, including lower body weight, longer lifespans and better blood sugar control. But many rodent calorie restriction studies had “unintentionally combined” reduced calorie consumption with long fasts, as the animals were given food just once per day, a release from the university shows. 

In a study published yesterday in the journal Nature Metabolism, UW School of Medicine and Public Health researcher Dudley Lamming, graduate student Heidi Pak and other collaborators sought to clarify exactly how these regimens were leading to health improvements in study animals. 

“Our results shed new light on how both when and how much we eat regulate metabolic health and longevity, and demonstrate that daily prolonged fasting, and not solely reduced caloric intake, is likely responsible for the metabolic and geroprotective benefits of a CR diet,” they wrote in their study. 

By controlling the amount of calories consumed and fasting periods for mice, the researchers found that when combined with eating less, fasting “reduces frailty” in older mice and extends their lifespan. They also found that fasting alone can improve liver metabolism and measures of blood sugar. 

By comparison, mice that had their calories restricted but never fasted “died younger” than the mice that ate freely, “suggesting that calorie restriction alone may be harmful,” per the release. 

Across all the groups of mice included in the study, researchers found that benefits previously attributed to calorie restriction alone “all required fasting as well,” as mice that ate fewer calories but did not fast didn’t get the same health benefits. They also found that fasting without reducing calories provided benefits similar to those from calorie restriction combined with fasting. 

“We need to know whether this fasting is required for people to see benefits,” Lamming said. “If fasting is the main driver of health, we should be studying drugs or diet interventions that mimic fasting rather than those that mimic fewer calories.”

See the study here: https://www.nature.com/articles/s42255-021-00466-9 

— WisPolitics.com is partnering with the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce to host a breakfast Nov. 2 in Washington, D.C. 

The event, “How Federal Dollars Can Supercharge Research and Metro Areas,” includes featured speaker U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, a Green Bay-area Republican. 

A panel discussion will include Mark Muro, a senior fellow and policy director at the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program; Steve Ackerman, a climate scientist and vice chancellor for research and graduate education at UW-Madison; and Brooke Mayer, an associate professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering at Marquette University. 

See more event details and register here: 


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