WED AM News: Adults over age 65 eligible for COVID-19 shot next week; Evers extends mask mandate

— Adults over the age of 65 will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine beginning Monday, but it could be months until hundreds of thousands of older Wisconsites get their shots, health officials say.

Currently, frontline health care workers, residents in long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities, and police and fire personnel are eligible. About 700,000 Wisconsinites are 65 and older. The state currently receives around 70,000 first-dose vaccines per week from the federal government. 

It will take time to vaccinate this population in Wisconsin, according to the Department of Health Services. 

DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said if Wisconsin were to strive for 80 percent of the population vaccinated by the end of June, it would need three times the vaccine it’s getting right now. At the current rate, the state will have the 65 and older population completed “for sure” in the next two months, she said.

“Older adults have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and prioritizing this population will help save lives,” said DHS Secretary Andrea Palm. “Wisconsin systems and operations are ready to vaccinate more people. The amount of vaccine we get from the federal government will determine how quickly we can get these groups vaccinated. Our partners in health care, pharmacies and local public health are ready and up to the task.”

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See the latest Health Care Report for more:

— Vaccines in the pipeline for the FDA emergency use authorization may speed up getting back to normal, according to Medical College of Wisconsin President Dr. John Raymond.

Over 248,000 doses of the COVID-19 shot have been administered in Wisconsin. That’s less than half the number of health care workers in the state. And with about 40,000 people having received their second dose, not even 1 percent of Wisconsin’s population has completed the Moderna and Pfizer two-dose series.

Raymond told a Milwaukee Rotary Club event yesterday that while the newer, single-dose vaccines awaiting FDA approval have proven to be less effective, the increased availability at more common places like local pharmacies and clinics would help get more people at least some level of protection faster. 

“So these vaccines may be the quickest way for us to get on the other side of the pandemic,” he said.

He added that when someone does get vaccinated, they should continue to wear a mask because it’s likely they can still transmit the virus to others. 

— Gov. Tony Evers has issued his third mask mandate, building on his previous orders to require face coverings in public through March 20.

The guv said on Friday he would extend the mandate, which originally went into place in July. Yesterday, he signed a new 60-day public health emergency along with the mandate. Both expire nearly a year after Evers first issued a stay-at-home order to combat the spread of COVID-19.

The order comes as the state Supreme Court is expected to release a ruling on whether Evers has the power to issue multiple health emergencies from the same pandemic. Under state law, the guv can issue a public health emergency for 60 days before needing the Legislature to extend it through a joint resolution.

The court in mid-November heard oral arguments in a case challenging Evers’ ability to issue multiple health emergencies to address the pandemic.

“We’re working every day to get vaccines distributed and get shots in arms to get our state back to some sort of normal,” Evers said. “At the end of the day, vaccine supplies are limited, so while we continue to ask the federal government for more vaccines and faster, we have to keep working together to stop the spread today by continuing wear our masks, staying home whenever we can, avoiding gatherings, and doubling down on our efforts to keep our friends, neighbors, and families safe.”

See the public health declaration: 

See the mask mandate: 

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— Alliant Energy is donating $90,000 in solar blocks from its Fond du Lac community solar project to Habitat for Humanity of Fond du Lac County.

The nonprofit organization will use the 240 blocks to lower the electric bills for people living in its homes. Purchased solar blocks generate a credit to customers on their monthly electric bills. The credits begin once the facility is in service and will last for 20 years.

Alliant Energy plans to attain net-zero carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity it generates by 2050. It launched its Fond du Lac community solar project early last month. The company expects to start construction on the project, located southeast of the city, this spring and complete it by the end of the year. 

“The solar blocks we are donating to Habitat for Humanity is another way we can help build a stronger Fond du Lac community and support those in need while creating a healthier, cleaner environment,” said Kathy Leifer, Alliant Energy senior key account manager for the Fond du Lac area.

— The 2021 Greater Racine County Virtual Talent Summit, hosted by Racine County

Economic Development Corporation, is scheduled for Feb. 4. 

The goal of this event is to equip Racine County business leaders with the tools to recruit, retain, and develop local talent now and in the future. Talent experts will demonstrate ways to better connect with employees, how to handle difficult and important conversations, and how to improve overall workplace culture. 

“Whether in person or virtual, this event is important and will have a tremendous effect on Racine County’s business community,” said Aleta Norris, partner and co-founder of Living As A Leader. “It is an honor to speak again at this year’s Talent Summit and I am excited to see the impact it has on all those who attend.”

Learn more: 

— Lightning Rounds, a pitch event hosted by startup accelerator gener8tor, will be held March 4. 

Lightning Rounds is gener8tor’s quarterly event that connects startups with accelerators and investors via quick-pitch opportunities. The goal series aims to center investing on underrepresented founders — founders of color.

gener8tor quoted a stat from the non-profit BLCK VC that said more than 80 percent of venture firms don’t have a single Black investor. Just 1 percent of venture-funded startup founders are Black. According to the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, only 2 percent of venture capital investment goes to Latinx founders, gener8tor said. 

The Madison-based accelerator will provide free office hours for startups who are not selected for pitches to coach them on improving their presentation skills and businesses.

The deadline for startups to apply is Feb. 1: 

See more information:

— The Dairy Business Association announced that funding the Dairy Innovation Hub and passing labeling laws that distinguish dairy from non-dairy alternatives are among its top legislative and budget priorities.

DBA is calling for more funding for groundwater mapping, well testing and farmer-led watershed conservation groups. Also on the water front, the organization advocates for areas to be removed from the contaminated zone if the area makes necessary improvements addressing nitrates in groundwater through targeted performance standards.

“DBA’s legislative priorities reflect the complexity of the dairy community. While each of these wide-ranging issues is important on its own, they all fit into a larger approach to supporting our farmers and processors as well many other connected businesses,” said DBA President Amy Penterman, a northwestern Wisconsin farmer. “We urge the governor and legislators to put the pieces together as they move their agendas forward and shape the next budget.” 

Other items include improving the CAFO program, funding dairy processor grants, fixing rural roads, providing driver’s permits for non-citizens, allowing flexibility for UW-Extension teaching requirements, implementing COVID-19 liability protections for businesses and promoting regulatory flexibility to ultimately make farms more environmentally sustainable.

See a recent story about the DBA’s annual Dairy Strong conference happening today and tomorrow: 

— The Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry has donated $100,000 to create a scholarship fund at UW-Green Bay to help skilled workers in the manufacturing pipeline.

Manitowoc County high school graduates planning to attend UW-Green Bay for engineering can apply.

Manufacturing is a leading industry in northeast Wisconsin. As many within the workforce approach retirement, there is a shortage of new engineers to meet manufacturers’ needs, according to WAF. 

“As we look to the future, it’s important to prepare the next generation with the skills needed for companies such as ours to continue to flourish,” explained WAF CEO Sachin Shivaram. “It’s also a way for us to invest in the community and to show that there are great career opportunities right here in this region.”

Know a graduating senior? Have them visit this site: 


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