THU AM News: Tourism spending outperforms national average compared to 2019; Indicators of COVID-19 activity on the rise in Wisconsin

— Tourism spending in Wisconsin has outperformed the national average for the past two years in comparison to 2019 numbers, state officials announced. 

A release from Gov. Tony Evers spotlighted figures from the Travel Recovery Insights report released by the U.S. Travel Association and Tourism Economics. It shows travel spending in the state in February was 1 percent lower than in 2019, while the national average was 6 percent lower. 

The release also notes Wisconsin in February “fared better than tourism powerhouses” such as Texas, Michigan, North Carolina, Hawaii, California, Minnesota, Illinois and New York, each of which were down between 4 and 18 percent compared to the same month in 2019. 

A graph included in the release shows tourism spending in the state has largely followed the national trend, with a sharp dip in early 2020 coinciding with the start of the pandemic. Travel spending in the state has remained below 2019 numbers for much of 2020 and 2021, and exceeded 2019 for the first time in September of last year. 

Over the six-month period ending in February, travel spending in the state exceeded 2019 levels four times, the release shows. It was up 1 percent in September, down 4 percent in October, up 1 percent in November, up 4 percent in December, up 1 percent in January and down 1 percent in February. 

Overall economic impact data for 2021 won’t be available until June, the release shows, but the state’s tourism industry in 2020 saw $17.3 billion in business sales and supported more than 157,000 jobs. In 2019, those numbers were $22.2 billion and 202,000 jobs, according to figures provided by Travel Wisconsin. 

See the release: 

— The seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases in the state has risen to 1,389, the Department of Health Services site shows. 

The latest increase comes as various indicators of COVID-19 activity in the state are on the rise. 

Wisconsin’s percent positivity rate for tests has risen to 10 percent, more than double the rate from this time last month. But it remains well below the recent peak of 29.4 percent in early January. 

And community levels for COVID-19 in Barron and Rusk counties have moved into the “high” category. Under this tier, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is encouraging residents to wear masks in public indoor areas, regardless of vaccination status. 

Meanwhile, Bayfield, La Crosse, Green Lake, Columbia and Dane counties are seeing “medium” community levels, and the rest of the state remains in the “low” category. 

The DHS site also shows the trajectory of COVID-19 patient hospitalizations was growing over the past two weeks in the north central, Fox Valley and southeast regions by 67 percent, 62 percent and 40 percent, respectively. No significant change was seen in the rest of the state over that period. 

Dr. Jon Meiman, chief medical officer in the DHS Bureau of Environmental and Occupational Health, said in a recent media briefing that “consistent, steady increases” in COVID-19 activity are being seen in wastewater sampling “throughout the state.” 

“Overall when you look at the state as a whole … the levels of the virus remain relatively low, yet we’re seeing persistent, slow upticks, and I think what we’re seeing now is that being reflected in diagnosed cases being reported to the state as well,” he said. 

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— There were slightly fewer abortions reported for Wisconsin residents in 2020 compared to the year before, according to the latest data from the Department of Health Services.

Meanwhile, the share of abortions induced by chemical means continued to rise.

DHS is required to produce an annual report on the number of abortions performed in Wisconsin. The latest report found:

*6,336 abortions were reported for Wisconsin residents, compared to 6,372 in 2019.

*6,430 abortions were performed in Wisconsin, a number that includes out-of-state residents who had the procedure performed here. That was down from 6,511 in 2019.

The number of abortions performed in Wisconsin dropped to 5,612 in 2016 before rising for three straight years. Other than the increases from 2016-2019, the number of abortions performed in Wisconsin has largely been on a downward trajectory since 1987, when DHS began doing a more detailed report on the procedure. That year, there were 17,318 abortions reported in Wisconsin.

Prior to 1987, the state conducted an annual survey of medical facilities and provided only the total number of reported induced abortions in the state.

Between 1976 and 1986, the number peaked at 21,754 in 1980.

Of the 6,336 abortions reported among Wisconsin residents, 61 percent were surgical while about 39 percent were chemically induced. Less than 1 percent were surgical procedures following a failed or incomplete chemically induced abortion.

In 2019, 33 percent of abortions on Wisconsin residents were chemically induced, while it was 29 percent in 2018.

The report found 59 percent of abortions in 2020 were performed at eight weeks or less in the gestation period. Another 20 percent were in weeks nine to 10.

Then-Gov. Scott Walker signed a law in 2015 that banned abortions in Wisconsin after 20 weeks of gestation unless it is an emergency situation. It didn’t include an exception for rape or incest.

In 2020, 53 abortions were performed in Wisconsin after 20 weeks of gestation. 

See the report: 

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— WEDC says it’s providing up to $200,000 in tax credits to support Casting Cleaning Resources’ planned expansion to a Menomonee Falls location. 

The Indiana-based company provides post-mold cleaning of iron castings to customers in Iowa, Illinois, and South Carolina. 

According to a release from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., the company chose Menomonee Falls for its expansion due to being closer to supply chain partners, the region’s workforce and the “high concentration” of advanced manufacturing companies nearby. The release shows the company purchased a facility in Menomonee Falls previously owned by Vollrath Company. 

The company can earn up to $200,000 in tax credits over the next three years if it creates at least 39 new jobs and spends at least $4 million in capital expenditures, the release shows. The amount of tax credits that will be provided hinges on the number of jobs created and capital invested in the project. 

See the release: 

— Dane County has announced more than $4 million in local, state and federal dollars are available for cost-share assistance for water and soil conservation practices. 

A release from the county’s Land and Water Resources Department says this funding will continue the Continuous Cover Program, aimed at converting “traditional row-cropped fields to permanent vegetation and native prairies.” Since the program began in 2019, 93 landowners have participated in the program and converted over 1,400 acres. 

The county says the program helps prevent soil erosion, reduces nutrient runoff, improves soil health, expands habitat for pollinators and other environmental benefits. 

Dane County is also launching a Soil Health Equipment Program this year, which will fund purchases of equipment used for practices such as no-till, adding cover crops and more. Expenses will be covered at a rate of 70 percent, up to $30,000, the release shows. 

See the release: 

— Halo’s Advocates, a community-centered source of prenatal resources for Black women, has won the annual Madison College Challenge. 

The contest was held yesterday at Madison College’s Truax Campus, giving founders a chance to pitch their companies and earn funding. 

The Deforest-based company, founded by Thedora Smith, beat out five other finalists to win $4,000. Halo’s Advocates aims to decrease infant mortality rates among Black women and teens in Dane County. 

“The culmination of this journey feels like a long time coming,” Smith said. “I can’t wait to get out in the community and tell my story.”

The competition was open to any credit or non-credit student that has not already been a Madison College Challenge finalist. Representatives of Madison Gas & Electric, Summit Credit Union and Madison College served as judges.

See more on Halo’s Advocates: 

See more at Madison Startups: 


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– Retired state conservation engineer honored for achievements

– State cranberry growers looking for communications manager


– 68-unit senior facility underway in Mequon involves Pat Connaughton’s firm

– Construction starts on Lumia Mequon, a new 68-unit senior living community


– Wisconsin residents asked to take broadband speed tests


– A Milwaukee school is training students to help their peers who are dealing with suicidal thoughts

– UW-Madison chancellor finalist Daniel Reed says collaboration is key in position

– Gov. Tony Evers appoints 3 to UW System Board of Regents, widening majority


– Emerald ash borer confirmed in Forest County


– Frozen cocktail bar Fat Tuesday opening in the Deer District this summer


– Ex-executive at Mercyhealth sentenced to 3½ years for $3 million fraud and tax evasion


– Tony Evers leads coalition of governors calling on Congress to codify abortion rights


– Growing developer’s rehab near 27th Street among housing voucher winners

– Bray Architects could renovate Walker’s Point building for offices

– Nathaniel Hackett, former Packers offensive coordinator, sells Ledgeview house for $1.55 million


– Panel suspends rule regulating pool standards at Wisconsin rental properties


– The Buzz: Another coffee shop coming to downtown Appleton. It also features a full-service florist.


– Bicyclists sought for annual Ride to Farm event

– La Crosse Omnium often stepping stone for professional cyclists


– Bastille Days and Jazz in the Park are back, but something will be missing

– Bastille Days, Jazz in the Park, Cathedral Square Market will return to downtown Milwaukee this summer


– With millions in federal investment, Wisconsin weighs strategy to expand electric vehicle infrastructure


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