MON AM News: NFIB calling for passage of bill to limit governor’s emergency powers; First death from MIS-C reported in Wisconsin

— A group representing small businesses in the state is calling for full passage of a bill limiting the governor’s emergency powers after polling found broad support among its members. 

AB 912, which the GOP Assembly passed last week along party lines, would prohibit the governor from declaring businesses as “essential” or “nonessential” in emergencies, as was done early in the pandemic. Any order affecting businesses would have to apply to all equally under the bill. 

Bill Smith, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business in Wisconsin, says Gov. Tony Evers’ order requiring certain businesses to close “had a devastating impact on small business owners and their employees” throughout the state. 

Recent polling of NFIB’s small business members in Wisconsin found 97 percent of respondents support eliminating essential and nonessential designations, according to a release. The group has over 10,000 members. 

“Many small businesses were unable to sell their goods and services and struggled to generate revenue to pay their employees, while big box stores that sold the same products, were allowed to remain open,” Smith said in a statement. 

He applauded the Assembly for passing the bill and urged the state Senate to do the same. 

The bill is supported by NFIB, Independent Insurance Agents of Wisconsin, IRG Action Fund, Midwest-SouthEastern Equipment Dealers Association, Wisconsin Property Taxpayers and the Wisconsin Restaurant Association. The state’s lobbying site shows no groups registered in opposition. 

See more bill details: 

See the full statement from Smith: 

— Health officials have reported the first death in Wisconsin from multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, which is linked to COVID-19. 

A total of 183 MIS-C cases have been identified in the state since the start of the pandemic, according to the Department of Health Services. The child was a resident of southeastern Wisconsin and was under 10 years old. 

This rare condition causes inflammation in various parts of the body, affecting multiple organs including the heart, lungs, kidneys and brain. DHS says most MIS-C cases are in children aged 3-12, though the total number includes all cases in people aged 20 or younger. 

The agency is urging parents to call 911 or take their children to an emergency department if they show “emergency warning signs” of the condition, including lingering fever, trouble breathing, chest pain, persistent pressure, confusion, inability to awaken or stay awake, blue lips or face, or severe abdominal pain. 

Tom Haupt, a respiratory disease epidemiologist with DHS, said during a media briefing Friday these symptoms typically occur between two and six weeks after the affected child is exposed to COVID-19, even if no symptoms of the initial infection were seen. 

He explained the progression of symptoms typically starts with a fever, and hospitalizations from MIS-C can last from several days to several weeks. Treatments involve putting the child on a blood thinner as well as steroids, including medications used to treat other inflammatory conditions such as Kawasaki disease. 

“So far, it’s been very effective in the children that have received those particular medications and those treatments,” he said. 

Haupt said specialists have yet to identify specific risk factors, but noted the condition is being seen more frequently in Black and Hispanic children. While more cases overall have been seen among white children, he said the rate of cases by population is higher among these groups. 

“What are their risk factors? That’s what we’re really trying to figure out,” he said. “And that’s why we are prioritizing getting reports in as quick as possible, and also to be as complete as possible.” 

Because the major spike in omicron cases occurred several weeks ago, Haupt says health officials are expecting to see more cases of MIS-C arise. Since the start of January, the state has identified 33 cases of the condition. 

“Here we are, halfway through February, and we continue to see high numbers of cases, and we anticipate that’s going to be lasting for a while,” he said. 

Still, he noted deaths from MIS-C are “very rare,” with a total of 60 deaths from the syndrome seen across the country. That’s out of about 7,100 confirmed cases of MIS-C. 

Health officials on the call continued to advocate for getting children vaccinated against COVID-19, noting that’s the best way to protect them from MIS-C. 

See the DHS release: 

— UW Health is highlighting a “stark decline” in COVID-19 vaccinations for children aged 5-11, in line with the statewide trend. 

UW Health reports giving 850 doses in one week in early November, when the Pfizer vaccine first became available for children in this age range. Between Feb. 14-18, just 81 shots were scheduled, according to a release. The health system says scheduling vaccinations “significantly slowed” following the holiday season. 

Statewide, 26.1 percent of kids aged 5-11 have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. That number is 55 percent in Dane County. 

Dr. Jim Conway, a pediatric infectious disease physician with UW Health Kids, says children in this age range are spending a lot of time in close contact with each other while in school or other settings. He says parents need to be reminded that the vaccines are “thoroughly tested, safe and effective” for young children. 

“It’s understandable that some parents might have been feeling very cautious initially, but with the real-world evidence mounting that the omicron variant and the BA.2 subvariant are continuing to spread, these still-vulnerable patients should be vaccinated,” he said in the release. 

See the release: 

See an earlier story on the statewide trend: 

— The Assembly has approved a series of bills Republicans say would help increase the size of the state’s workforce.

The measures aim to move people off of government programs while increasing talent attraction and training efforts.

Republicans are seeking to change requirements to qualify for government assistance programs, fund efforts to attract more veterans to the workforce, and promote apprenticeship and youth apprenticeship programs. But Dems argue the push will only reduce the assistance programs’ ability to get more people in the workforce.

One of those bills, which passed in a 59-33 vote along party lines, would require the Department of Workforce Development to conduct random audits for at least 50 percent of all work search actions. Current law requires such audits, but does not specify how many must be conducted. The bill would also change application requirements for those looking to receive unemployment benefits.

Other bills the Assembly approved would punish those on unemployment who “ghost” employers by failing to show up for scheduled job interviews or fail to respond to job offers, among other things.

The Assembly passed AB 936 in a 59-33 vote. Dem Rep. Don Vruwink joined GOP colleagues in supporting the bill. The bill adds to prohibitions to receive benefits from the Medical Assistance program.

Under the bill, those who knowingly fail to accept job offers or an increase in paid work hours or wages in order to continue receiving Medical Assistance benefits would lose eligibility for benefits.

The Assembly bills now head to the Senate.

The Assembly also approved via party lines 60-34 legislation that would direct Gov. Tony Evers to spend $20 million in federal ARPA funds to promote and expand the availability of apprenticeship programs.

Rep. Robyn Vining, D-Wauwatosa, said Dems aren’t opposed to spending money on expanding apprenticeship programs, but are opposed to spending one-time use money on the effort because it does not guarantee the investments will continue down the road.

Bill author Rep. Loren Oldenburg, R-Viroqua, argued Republicans would continue to fund the effort as the need arises, and skilled trade workers are badly needed as the workforce shortage has shown.

Evers has said all the ARPA dollars have been allocated already, though he has not spent all the available pandemic relief funds.

The Assembly also approved a bill that would reduce to 16 the age of those who can enter into apprenticeship contracts, among other changes to youth apprenticeship programs. Lawmakers in a 62-30 vote approved AB 973.

See more details at 

— Wisconsin lost about 300 farms over the year in 2021, according to a recent USDA report. 

The total number of farms in the state decreased from 64,400 in 2020 to 64,100 in 2021, the report shows. 

Meanwhile, total farmland declined from 14.3 million acres in 2020 to 14.2 million last year. And average farm size remained unchanged over the year at 222 acres, per the report. 

See more from the report: 

— A research study from UW-Madison has shed new light on the Colorado potato beetle, showing it rapidly evolved resistance to more than 50 different insecticides. 

This hardy insect poses a threat to potato crops across the country, as well as other agricultural products such as eggplants and peppers. A team led by Sean Schoville, a UW-Madison professor of entomology, found different populations of the beetle around the country separately evolved resistance to various pesticides. 

This was possible because of its “wealth of diversity and arsenal of existing resistance genes,” according to a release from the university. 

Because of these findings, Schoville says new pesticides likely won’t be effective against the pest for long. But he adds more sophisticated models of resistance could help scientists better understand what factors influence its evolution, and use that knowledge to slow it down. 

“This beetle was one of the first to be attacked with chemicals in the modern era, and it’s been very successful at evolving past those attacks,” Schoville said in the release. “For other insects we’re hoping to control, there’s lessons to be learned from studying this pest.” 

The study was published recently in the scientific journal Molecular Biology and Evolution. 

See the full study here: 


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