WED AM News: Advocates highlight ‘high energy burden’ areas; Oral antiviral COVID medications ‘widely available,’ health officials say

— Environmental advocates are calling for greater consideration of “high energy burden” areas as officials review the state’s Focus on Energy program.

Cassie Steiner-Bouxa, campaign coordinator for the Wisconsin chapter of the Sierra Club, said during a media briefing the state’s energy efficiency program is reviewed by the state Public Service Commission every four years. 

Following an initial phase focused on broad goals of the program, a public comment period will open at the end of this month to explore potential changes to Focus on Energy, she explained yesterday. The program provides financial incentives for energy customers to install efficiency upgrades and projects, such as solar electric systems for certain businesses. It also has options for residential customers. 

One element under review is “how the program can better serve low-income customers and communities experiencing high energy burden,” Steiner-Bouxa said, noting residents of majority Black and Latino neighborhoods in Milwaukee tend to spend a higher share of income on electricity. 

BlueGreen Alliance Midwest Regional Field Organizer Richard Diaz noted minority populations across the country are “disproportionately impacted by unsafe, hazardous and inefficient” housing options. He said people of color, who are more likely to live in “high-poverty communities,” typically spend three times as much on energy. 

“This energy burden is in part because they are more likely to live in older, less energy-efficient housing,” he said. “Take our city of Milwaukee for example. While 16 percent of Milwaukee’s metro population is Black, 65 percent of the residents of energy burden neighborhoods are Black.”  

Keviea Guiden, an organizer for Groundwork Milwaukee, called for increased opportunities for renters and low-income homeowners to benefit from this program, such as options for replacing “aging and inefficient” appliances. 

Steiner-Bouxa said the Sierra Club backs Guiden’s priorities, and is hopeful the program can align “with decarbonization goals more rapidly, so that we’re addressing both climate concerns and environmental justice concerns through improvements to this program.” 

Watch a video of the briefing here: 

See details on Focus on Energy here: 

— State health officials say oral antiviral COVID-19 medications are “now widely available” in Wisconsin. 

The Department of Health Services is urging anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 to get tested and receive the treatments when recommended by a health care provider. 

The oral medications, Paxlovid and Lagevrio, were granted emergency use authorization by federal officials late last year. Both have been found to reduce the risk of hospitalization and death. DHS says the risk reduction is up to 88 percent with Paxlovid, which can be used by eligible patients aged 12 and older. Lagevrio is only for adults. 

DHS says 480 pharmacies in the state can fill prescriptions for these treatments. A release from the agency shows 12,740 courses of Paxlovid and 2,888 courses of Lagevrio have been distributed to health care facilities in Wisconsin. 

And 23 percent of Paxlovid and 6 percent of Lagevrio courses have been dispensed to patients as of April 27, the release shows. 

“Very early on, they were in very short supply, so we really encouraged providers to be pretty diligent in using the very limited supply we’ve had,” Dr. Jon Meiman, chief medical officer in the DHS Bureau of Environmental and Occupational Health, said yesterday in a briefing. “As time has gone on, the supply has increased quite a bit … we haven’t seen too much of an uptick in utilization. It is slowly increasing but it’s taken some time.” 

The treatments are recommended for those with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are at “high risk” for severe illness, hospitalization or death and can start treatment within five days of symptoms starting. 

Health officials note the monoclonal antibody treatment bebtelovimab and the preventative monoclonal antibody medication Evusheld are also “widely available” in the state. 

See the DHS release: 

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— Marquette University has received a $1 million donation from alumni supporting renovations to a new location for its College of Nursing. 

The donation from Micky and Jennifer Minhas will “significantly further” the college’s efforts to boost nurse graduate numbers, according to acting Dean Jill Guttormson. 

Micky graduated in 1989 from the Opus College of Engineering and is on the university’s Board of Trustees, while Jennifer graduated in the same year from the College of Nursing. She’s also on Marquette’s Time to Rise nursing campaign committee. 

Earlier this month, the university announced the College of Nursing would be moving into David A. Straz, Jr. Hall, which currently houses the College of Business Administration and Graduate School of Management. 

Once the renovated facility opens in 2024, the university says it plans to add 200 more undergraduate nurses to the college in the following four years. 

See details on the renovation plan: 

— Gener8tor and the Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development are launching the Worker-Owned Cooperative Startup Accelerator, organizers announced recently.

The free four-week program will provide an opportunity for startups, entrepreneurs and justice-involved individuals to explore the worker-owned cooperative model and for existing co-opss to identify strategies for scaling and building capacity. It’s being launched with support from the Madison Cooperative Development Coalition. 

The program will begin virtually May 18, with a panel discussion led by entrepreneurs from Soaring Independent Cooperative and Roots4Change.

Nehemiah is a Madison-based organization that aims to cultivate character, leadership and economic development for the African-American community through culturally grounded programs.

See more at Madison Startups: 

— A former executive with United Way of Dane County has been named the new state director of AARP Wisconsin. 

Martha Cranley previously held the position of vice president of community impact for United Way of Dane County, where she led efforts to end homelessness in the area, a release shows. 

Cranley, who starts this week, has also chaired the Dane County Continuum of Care Board of Directors and the Annie E. Casey Kids Count Network Advisory Board. 

“I’m excited to be joining a state and national leader in civic engagement in a time when common ground is sorely needed,” Cranley said in a statement. 

See the release: 


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– Report: Wisconsin refinery knew about issues before blast


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