THU AM News: PSC approves proposed wind project purchase with conditions; State distributing initial allocation of oral COVID-19 treatments this week

— The state PSC has approved with some conditions an application from Wisconsin Public Service and Madison Gas and Electric to buy a proposed wind energy project in Grant County for about $162 million. 

Construction on the 92 megawatt Red Barn Wind Energy Center Generation Facility is scheduled to begin early this year and wrap up by the end of 2022, PSC Chairperson Rebecca Cameron Valcq said yesterday during a meeting of the three-member Public Service Commission. 

The project seller is an affiliate of Minnesota-based PRC Wind called Red Barn Energy LLC. Allete Clean Energy, also based in Minnesota, will acquire and construct the project, according to a memo provided by commission staff. 

Under the application approved by the PSC, WPS and MGE will purchase the wind energy project for approximately $162 million. Valcq noted the applicants will acquire the project only after construction and initial operations have been completed. 

While commissioners all voted to approve the application, they included six conditions that Valcq called “reasonable and necessary.” These conditions include: the commission reviewing acquisition cost recovery in a future rate case; applicants notifying the PSC of the effective date of the purchase within 30 days of the transfer; applicants upholding agreements made by the developer related to mitigating environmental impacts; applicants receiving and complying with all required permits; and others. 

“At the end of the day, I think that the evidence that we have in front of us is enough to support a finding that this project satisfies the statutory requirements,” Valcq said. 

See the full story: 

— Wisconsin is distributing its initial allocation of the new oral antiviral COVID-19 treatments this week, though officials caution that supply is “extremely limited.” 

The state’s first week allocation from the federal government includes 940 courses of Paxlovid and 4,320 courses of molnupiravir, a release from the Department of Health Services shows. The agency says it will be distributing courses to “select pharmacies” by tomorrow, and will continue to “equitably” distribute the pills as the state receives more of them. 

Allocations to pharmacies are being made on a pro-rata basis to each Healthcare Emergency Readiness Coalition, the DHS site shows. And populations largely served by long-term care pharmacies and correctional institutes are getting additional allocations. DHS also notes many federally qualified health centers and tribal health centers are getting the treatments directly from the feds. 

Both of the drugs require a prescription and are meant for patients with mild to moderate disease. Paxlovid, made by Pfizer, can be used by people over age 12 who aren’t taking certain other medications, while Merck’s molnupiravir can be used by adults who aren’t pregnant or breastfeeding. Paxlovid is the brand name for nirmatrelvir and ritonavir, while molnupiravir is sold under the brand names Lagevrio, Molulife and others. 

Under National Institutes of Health guidance, providers are being encouraged to prescribe the treatments to patients at higher risk of severe illness or hospitalization from the virus. Dr. Jonathan Meiman, a chief medical officer at DHS, says they will help prevent severe disease as hospitals in the state operate near capacity amid the current surge. 

“Since these medications are most effective early in the course of the virus, it is urgent that people at risk for severe COVID-19 get tested at the first sign of illness and seek medical care so their provider can determine if they should receive these pills,” he said in the release. 

Jeff Starck, a spokesman for Marshfield Clinic Health System, says the system learned yesterday that it will get “a small amount” of the treatments, though they have not yet arrived. 

“We look forward to receiving this medication soon so we can prescribe it to our COVID-19 patients,” he said in an email. 

Meanwhile, Gundersen Health System spokesman Adam Hatfield says the La Crosse-based system is set to receive courses of the oral COVID-19 treatments as well. 

“We expect to receive a small number of courses soon, which will be distributed to locations across our system,” he said in an email. “We’re grateful to add the courses to our range of treatments available to patients, and we’re hopeful more courses are available in the future.” 

UW Health Press Secretary Emily Kumlien says the organization anticipates receiving enough of the antiviral pills in this allocation to treat 40 people. 

“We will distribute these exciting new treatments to the COVID-19 patients most at-risk for severe illness,” she said in a statement. “We hope to provide these treatment options to more people who need them as soon as supply allows.”

See a map of locations receiving treatments: 

— The number of new COVID-19 cases reported in Wisconsin continues to skyrocket, with the latest seven-day average reaching 6,260 cases per day.  

A record high 10,288 new cases were added to the state’s system, the DHS site shows. The seven-day average is approaching levels seen in late 2020, when the last major peak in cases occurred. That number previously reached 6,498 cases per day on Nov. 17, 2020. 

Still, the seven-day average for new COVID-19 deaths remains significantly lower than in the previous major peak. The latest seven-day average was 20 deaths per day, well below the peak of 57 deaths per day seen in early December 2020. 

The Wisconsin Hospital Association dashboard shows hospital capacity in the state continues to be strained. A total of 2,002 people in the state are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, including 464 intensive care patients. The overall hospitalization figure has seen a much more dramatic increase than the number of ICU patients. But just 51 of the state’s 1,353 total ICU beds are immediately available, the WHA site shows. 

See the latest case numbers: 

See the WHA dashboard: 

— Dem lawmakers balked at Republicans backing a bill that would allow those previously infected with COVID-19 to forgo vaccination requirements.

During an Assembly Constitution and Ethics Committee public hearing, Rep. Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie, said AB 675 would take health care guidelines out of medical professionals’ hands. The bill would require employers to accept documentation demonstrating natural immunity against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in lieu of vaccination proof or regular testing.

But Aaron Henkel, who practices naturopathic medicine, said the bill would give citizens and health care professionals more options to combat the disease. However, he said Wisconsin does not recognize his naturopathic doctoral degree, adding he is licensed in Washington state to practice medicine focusing on natural remedies.

“I think natural immunity is superior over the vaccination from my research,” Henkel said.

He added it’s important to understand the risks behind infecting oneself with COVID-19, but compared purposely getting infected or getting vaccinated to parents who choose to send their kids to chicken-pox parties instead of getting their kids vaccinated against chicken-pox.

Rep. Sondy Pope, D-Mt. Horeb, raised concerns health care professionals may not be able to know for sure whether patients have been infected in the past without testing.

But Chair Chuck Wichgers, R-Muskego, responded doctors could just draft and sign a note similar to vaccine cards that detail what kind of COVID-19 test showed the patient was infected and now has at least some amount of natural immunity.

Rep. David Murphy, R-Greenville, added the bill is important right now because it could allow more health care workers to come back to work in the midst of vaccination requirements.

He said if he were a cancer patient, he’d rather have an unvaccinated health care worker treat him than no one at all.

“We have to choose between a perfect world and a world where we’re still getting health care,” he said.

See more on the bill:

— Madison-based Pivotal Health recently announced that it has expanded its services to the Milwaukee area. 

In addition, the tech company recently launched its app on iOS and Android.

“Milwaukee is Wisconsin’s largest metro area. We’re pleased to be able to bring high-quality, convenient healthcare to consumers in this area,” CEO Sal Braico said in a statement. “Consumers are demanding more convenient options for urgent care and primary care and Pivotal Health can deliver.”

Patients can now schedule home visits from urgent and primary care providers through the Pivotal Health app in both the Madison and Milwaukee areas.

In 2021, the company was a finalist for the Wisconsin Technology Council’s Governor’s Business Plan Contest and the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce’s Pressure Chamber pitch competition. 

See more at Madison Startups: 


# Wisconsin child care providers, already battered by the pandemic, see more closures, cases in current surge

# Wisconsin tax burden rises for first time in decade

# Stoughton Trailers opening new plant in Texas, adding 150 jobs in Wisconsin



– USMCA panel sides with U.S. in dairy dispute with Canada


– Madison developer plans to break ground this spring on MKE’s third mass-timber tower

– City considering options for repairing firehouse with structural defects


– Wisconsin’s tax burden as share of income grows for first time in 10 years


– MMSD offering 15,000 free COVID tests by Jan. 10

– Edgewood College delaying start of Spring semester for in-person courses


– More than a foot of snow reported across northern Wisconsin, dangerous wind chills expected statewide


– Another COVID closure: Johnson Financial Group temporarily closes lobby on Main Street in Racine


– Inventors Brewpub plans for Port Washington expansion: Beer Biz MKE

– Inventors Brewpub plans new, larger facility in Port Washington


– COVID-19 hospitalizations rising at Children’s Wisconsin, officials say


– Beer can maker Ball Corp. delays major change that would hit craft breweries


– UW Credit Union buys land for Drexel Town Square branch, adding to Milwaukee-area growth

– Elm Grove home sold for nearly $6 million


– Milwaukee Admirals ticket sales revenue pacing ahead of season that began pre-pandemic

– Eau Claire man coaching Chinese Taipei’s national curling team


– Clark Co. Farm Tech Committee raising funds for 2022 show

– Kohler Co. expands clean energy tech with acquisition of Boston-area startup


– Regulators approve utilities’ plans to buy 92-megawatt wind farm


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