WED AM News: Advisory panel discusses next eligible vaccine recipients; MGE aims for 65 percent carbon reduction by 2030, net-zero by 2050

— Wisconsin has vaccinated a fifth of its priority patients, and the advisory committee to the state health department is deciding who will be next. 

The state will not wait to vaccinate all 450,000 frontline health care workers and long-term care residents and staff before moving on to “phase 1B” — the second phase of vaccine distribution.

Department of Health Services spokeswoman Elizabeth Goodsitt said the state will move on to the next phase as it receives more vaccine supply.

A vaccine subpanel of the State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee met this week to draft who would be included in the second phase. The 17-member panel advises DHS regarding medical ethics during a declared disaster or public health emergency, taking into consideration guidelines from the federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

The committee’s discussion this morning highlighted eligible people as those ages 75 and older, firefighters and police officers, and K-12 teachers and child care workers. 

Committee members disagreed if instructors should only be vaccinated if they are teaching in-person. They also posed questions regarding types of teachers, for example, asking if driver education instructors or dance teachers should be vaccinated. 

This led to trepidation around adding post-secondary instructors since some suspect the fall surge of COVID-19 was driven by students coming back to school in September. Committee members shared thoughts on whether a line should be drawn between faculty and staff at colleges and universities. They also questioned whether people should be separated by virtual and in-person instruction and if student-teachers should be vaccinated. 

Committee co-chair Ann Lewandowski, who manages an immunization consortium of the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative, said the committee will likely have to “slice and dice” the teacher group before the final proposal goes out for public comment next week.

Corrections workers were the final group recommended by the federal committee that received unanimous approval from SDMAC.

But the committee also discussed adding groups to the second phase of vaccine recipients that were not included in the federal vaccination advisory committee recommendation, including 176,000 people ages 65-74 in congregate living and people who are incarcerated. 

Vaccinating the 97,582 prison population received strong support from Department of Corrections Chief Nursing Officer Mary Muse, who said she’s concerned about these incarcerated populations. They wouldn’t have access to the vaccine otherwise, she said. She said those in prisons have had a lifestyle that makes them a higher risk population.   

However, Rob Gundermann, president and CEO of the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging and Health Groups, questioned whether those who have committed crimes should be able to jump the line to get a vaccine. 

“It’s not a good look,” he said. 

Others wanted to lump all congregate living into one group because tight, confined living spaces are a high risk for viral spread. And some committee members asked to not include people in jails. The reasoning being that the high turnover rate would make tracking down individuals for a second dose difficult.

Other populations that could get the OK for a vaccine are those working in public transit, grocery stores, and the food and agriculture industry. 

By that point, Dr. Jim Conway, a professor at the UW-Madison School of Medicine & Public Health, said half of the state’s adult population would be included in the second phase — about 2.5 million people — which would make administering the vaccine “impossible.”

The committee will meet again on Friday morning.

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— Madison Gas and Electric’s annual corporate responsibility and sustainability report predicts the utility will achieve 65 percent carbon reduction by 2030 and net-zero carbon by 2050.

Included in the report is the analysis of the company’s net-zero carbon goal by UW-Madison’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. UW researcher Tracey Holloway compared MGE’s goal to the modeled benchmarks limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The study found MGE’s goal is in line with or more aggressive than the models for climate solutions.

MGE generates and distributes electricity to 155,000 customers in Dane County, and purchases and distributes natural gas to 163,000 customers in seven south-central and western Wisconsin counties. 

Its decarbonization efforts include recent clean energy projects equating to an expected 650 percent increase in owned renewable capacity when all projects come online. This includes 100 megawatts from the Badger Hollow Solar Farm and 50 megawatts from Two Creeks Solar, and a number of solar projects in the Madison area.

In addition, MGE’s residential and commercial customer programs help customers use energy more efficiently and power their households and businesses with clean energy. It’s also developing partnerships to grow the use of electric vehicles and facilitate charging options throughout the community.

“By working with customers to decarbonize our energy supply, advance energy efficiency and electrify transportation, we can meet our goal of net-zero carbon by 2050,” said Chairman, President and CEO Jeff Keebler. “If we can go further faster through the use of new technologies and partnerships with our customers and communities, we will.”

See the report: 

— The latest episode of “ The Show” spotlights entrepreneur Justin Hajny of Fitchburg-based Nobbits USA.

Nobbits makes unique shoelaces that resist coming loose and work comfortably with all types of shoes. The startup was an award winner during the Elevator Pitch Olympics at the 2020 Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium.

Also in the episode, Wisconsin Technology Council President Tom Still presents Tech Metrics, highlighting key indicators and events in the Wisconsin economy. 

See the show: 

— Exact Sciences has completed its acquisition of Thrive Earlier Detection Corp., a health care company incorporating earlier cancer detection into routine medical care. 

In October, Exact and Thrive announced they had entered into an agreement under which Exact would acquire Thrive for cash and stock consideration of up to $2.15 billion. 

Exact aims to combine Thrive’s early-stage screening test, CancerSEEK, with its existing platform. With an early version of CancerSEEK, Thrive had conducted a 10,000-patient study in a real-world clinical setting that detected 10 different types of cancer, including seven with no recommended screening guidelines, with very few false positives. 

“Bringing Thrive into the Exact Sciences family marks a giant leap toward blood-based, multi-cancer screening becoming a reality and eventually the standard of care,” said Kevin Conroy, chairman and CEO of Exact Sciences. 

— Verona-based Epic is aiding both domestic and foreign health care systems as the world battles the global COVID-19 pandemic. 

While the first coronavirus vaccines are a powerful new advancement in fighting the virus, it’s logistically demanding, requiring the scheduling and administering of two doses to every person who needs it. Epic has played a role in the massive undertaking with its electronic patient records.

With Epic’s electronic records system, Cambridge University Hospitals recently became the first organization in the UK to reach Stage 7, the highest level of digital maturity according to a global analytics model that scores hospitals on their electronic medical records capabilities.

Clinicians and staff across its hospitals share the same integrated electronic patient record. Information entered at the front desk, by a pharmacist or on the hospital ward is automatically visible in a single system to everyone who needs it to coordinate the patient’s care. 

“This is the first step of many toward ending the greatest public health challenge of our lifetimes,” said Dr. Afzal Chaudhry, CUH’s Director of Digital, Chief Clinical Information Officer & Consultant Nephrologist. 

Epic’s electronic patient records are used across all of Epic’s customers. CUH uses the Epic electronic patient records to plan for vaccine availability to prevent vaccine waste, schedule second doses of the two-part vaccines, send data to the NHS, and identify priority patient populations.

— Eau Claire-based Precision Pipeline, LLC will construct the Keystone XL Pipeline in Montana and North Dakota. 

TC Energy Corporation awarded PPL the contract. The company will be responsible for hiring an estimated 1,600 union workers over the two-year construction period. 

“We are extremely proud to put PPL employees and more than 1,600 American union members to work on completing this important infrastructure project, which will also provide a boost to local economies along the project route,” said Bobby Poteete, president of PPL. “As a Wisconsin business, we’re proud to be awarded such a large contract for a significant North American infrastructure project and we look forward to working with TC Energy, local communities and businesses to bring Keystone XL to life.”

According to TC Energy, in addition to job creation, the Keystone XL Pipeline Project is expected to contribute $55 million in annual property tax revenues, with millions in economic benefits going directly to education and essential community services alone.

PPL Vice President of Midwest Operations Michael Hyke said the company is committed to hiring locally and giving priority to qualified local and Indigenous businesses.


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– Wisconsin’s Assembly welcomes new ag committee members 

– Julia Nunes to Serve as Alice in Dairyland Through 2022 

– Farmers to Families Food Box Program Will Continue 


– Madison and Milwaukee make U-Haul’s annual list of top cities for net migration 


– After Lower Holiday Numbers, DHS Reports 95 New COVID-19 Deaths

– Milwaukee-area assisted living provider acquired by North Carolina firm 

– Froedtert, Advocate Aurora make good on pledge to raise minimum wages to $15 

– Priority Categories For Coronavirus Vaccine Not Cut And Dried 


– Prosecutor: No charges against Kenosha police officer Rusten Sheskey in Jacob Blake shooting


– Milwaukee craft distillers rejoice over excise tax reduction permanence and voiding of sanitizer fees 


– Michigan Judge Denies Permit For Back Forty Mine On The Banks Of The Menominee River 


– Republicans’ COVID-19 package largely ditches ‘compromise’ offered by governor


– Phoenix Investors buys Glendale offices for conversion back into industrial space 


– Waukesha’s Zignego Co. lowest bidder at $87M for Highway 50 road project 


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