— More than half of employers responding to a recent Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce survey say they reduced staff last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
WMC, the state’s largest business group, surveyed 266 member employers and found that 34 percent of respondents reduced their workforces by less than 10 percent. Thirteen percent reduced staff by between 10 and 20 percent, and 5 percent cut staff by more than 20 percent.
Among employers that allowed all or some of their employees to work from home, 44 percent said productivity levels remained the same. Thirty-two percent said productivity fell, while 8 percent said productivity increased while staff worked from home. Another 17 percent said they were unsure.
Only 5 percent of respondents said they will let their employees work from home permanently, and 74 percent said employees have already returned to working in the office. Around 20 percent said employees will be returning to in-office work between the coming month and the fourth quarter of 2021. One percent said workers will be back in the office early next year.
“Wisconsin employers are ready to get back to work,” said WMC President and CEO Kurt Bauer in a release. “While offices will likely look different moving forward, this survey shows most of us are just ready to get back to normal.”
When asked about concerns related to staff working remotely, the most common concern was a loss of company culture, with 33 percent of respondents. Twenty-two percent said they would be concerned about decreased collaboration, and 15 percent would be concerned with a lack of communication. Thirteen percent said decreased productivity would be a concern, while 9 percent said they’re not concerned about remote work.
The survey also reveals 82 percent of respondents aren’t offering incentives for staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19, while 18 percent are offering incentives such as paid time off, gift cards and cash bonuses.
Sixty-four percent of respondents said the pandemic had a negative financial impact on their business, while 30 percent said it had a positive impact. Seven percent said their business wasn’t impacted.
See the full survey results: https://www.wmc.org/wp-content/uploads/WI-Employer-Survey-2021_COVID-19.pdf
— The median June home price in Wisconsin was over 15 percent higher than in June of last year, the latest report from the Wisconsin Realtors Association shows.
Last month’s median home price was $257,000, the report shows, compared to $223,000 in June 2020. Meanwhile, the total number of statewide listings is around 19 percent lower, with 23,442 listings in June of this year. That’s down from 29,038 in June 2020. But the number of new listings for the month was more than 9 percent higher than the previous June.
The total number of homes sold in the first half of the year was 35,549. This year, that number was 38,531.
“We’re in this pattern of very strong demand and very weak supply, and that’s a formula for ongoing affordability issues,” said WRA President Michael Theo in a statement.
— The seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases in the state is on the rise, according to the latest figures from the state Department of Health Services.
The seven-day average on Sunday reached 156 cases per day after dipping to a low of 60 cases per day on July 5. The DHS site shows the seven-day average for new cases has been increasing since then, though it’s still well below previous peaks.
The increase comes as the number of COVID-19 cases on the national level has been climbing, and health experts have been tracking the more contagious delta variant of the virus. Although it’s not clear exactly how many of the new cases in Wisconsin are attributable to this variant, state health officials have expressed concern and say they’re watching the delta variant closely.
DHS provides information on variants in the state each Thursday, and the latest update shows 101 cases of the delta variant have been identified in Wisconsin.
COVID-19 vaccinations in the state are continuing at a slow pace, with 51.1 percent of the state’s total population having received at least one vaccine dose, and 48.7 percent having completed the vaccine series.
At the national level, 56.1 percent of the total U.S. population have received at least one vaccine dose, and 48.6 percent are fully vaccinated against the virus.
See the latest DHS figures on total cases: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/cases.htm
— Some of the state’s top medical schools are launching a new $3 million effort to address health disparities in Wisconsin.
The UW School of Medicine and Public Health and the Medical College of Wisconsin say the effort aims to improve areas of health inequality including those worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We anticipate benefits to people in both rural and urban areas because we know that disparities exist in multiple settings in Wisconsin and have deepened even more because of the pandemic,” said Richard Moss, associate dean for the UWSMPH.
The funding comes from MCW’s Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment and UW’s Wisconsin Partnership Program, according to a release. The effort will use data gathered from health systems and health insurers as well as other information to identify disparities.
Partners in the effort include the Marshfield Clinic Research Institute, an insurer coalition called the Wisconsin Health Information Organization, and the Wisconsin Collaborative for Healthcare Quality, which includes 35 health systems, over 300 medical clinics and 200 dentists.
See more on the effort: https://www.med.wisc.edu/news-and-events/2021/july/statewide-partnership-awarded-3-million/
— A new collaboration between three UW-Madison health and research organizations aims to identify and improve treatments for rare genetic diseases.
The UW Undiagnosed Genetic Disease Clinic was recently launched in Madison by UW Health, the Waisman Center and the UW School of Medicine and Public Health.
Dr. Stephen Meyn, director of the UW Center for Human Genomics and Precision Medicine, says the effort will seek to provide a diagnosis for patients “who in many cases have searched for years” for the cause of their conditions. The clinic will also study these conditions and analyze the genetic causes in hopes of developing better treatments.
“This is a research effort, but the focus is on the patient,” Meyn said in a statement. “When we think about how we can help these people, it is by diagnosing them so they and their health care providers can better understand their conditions and live their lives to their highest potential.”
A release from UW-Madison shows rare diseases likely affect around one in every 12 people, including about 450,000 people in Wisconsin alone. But the genetic causes for these conditions have been identified in just half of patients, according to the release.
Patients will be referred by their health care provider to the clinic, where specialists will be working in partnership with other institutions including Stanford University and Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. Some of those patients will be recruited for research studies after other genetic testing options have been exhausted.
Find details on the program here: https://chgpm.wisc.edu/uw-undiagnosed-disease-program/
— A recent report from the AFL-CIO shows the average pay ratio between CEOs and workers at S&P 500 companies in Wisconsin was 188-to-1 last year.
The union report shows that on average, Wisconsin CEOs made over $10.1 million in total compensation in 2020, compared to over $10.9 million in 2019.
In a release, Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Stephanie Bloomingdale calls for employers to raise wages for all workers to reduce the pay disparity.
“Throughout the pandemic, workers made decisions no one should ever face: go to work and possibly contract COVID-19, or stay home and risk losing a paycheck,” Bloomingdale said in a statement. “CEOs pulling in big-time paychecks rarely had to make those same decisions.”
# State dairy herd count at 6,755; half the total of 13 years ago
# Wisconsin farm groups call for more trade opportunities during ambassador’s visit
# Medical schools address health disparities in Wisconsin
– State Agricultural Security Fund responds to pipeline foods
– Wisconsin’s new soil scientist wants soil practices to ‘mimic Mother Nature’
– Madison moves forward on several solutions for homeless residents
– Milwaukee Bucks’ finals success giving region an economic boost
– Milwaukee’s Oriental Theatre, the first local movie theater to close for the COVID-19 pandemic, will reopen in late August
– Costs mount in effort to save Wisconsin recreational spot
# HEALTH CARE
– Wisconsin medical schools launch $3 million effort to address health disparities
– New UW clinic to use latest genetic technology to help patients with unknown diseases
– Tobacco-free coalition changes name to respect Native American ceremonial use
– Tickets for Game 6 of the NBA Finals are going for highest prices in Wisconsin history
– Bucks, Marcus Hotels, Irgens among supporters of streetcar’s next expansion
# PRESS RELEASES
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