WED AM News: Expert urges businesses to create forced labor prevention programs; Post-COVID clinic head estimates up to 300K Wisconsinites could be affected by ‘long COVID’

— A compliance expert is urging businesses to develop human trafficking and forced labor prevention programs as countries move to enact higher standards for international trade. 

“As they like to say, the best defense is a good offense,” said Gwen Hassan, a compliance officer and legal counsel who spoke yesterday during a webinar hosted by the Madison International Trade Association. “So know your supply chain. Make sure that you have taken the time and effort to actually map it. Where do products come from? Where do they end up?” 

She noted a number of countries including Germany, Canada, Australia and others are considering new restrictions or changes to existing laws to address the role of exploitation and human trafficking in global supply chains. 

“Are you in Germany? Then gear up and get ready for that new human rights due diligence requirement. Are you in Australia, are you in Canada? So you need to kind of layer, what is my risk, what is the regulatory context, and how do I figure out how we’re going to comply given the risk that I have?” she said. 

In the United States, she explained customs officials can impose a “withhold release order” on incoming shipments that are suspected to have been produced through forced labor or human trafficking networks. While importers can get their products admitted if they prove they’re not linked to these practices, she said “this is very, very difficult to do.” 

Importers hit with a WRO have three months to submit a certification that must include substantial evidence proving the supply chain doesn’t include any forced labor or human trafficking components, she said. She said U.S. Customs expects a full map of the supply chain going back to the sources for raw materials. 

“If you don’t have the ability to go and audit in person right now, if you’re starting from scratch, consider getting a production record,” she said. “That’s a set of documents that will come from the supplier and include everything about them — all of their sourcing information, their shipping, their receipt of raw materials.” 

Hassan said businesses that receive the 90-day WRO notice from customs officials will find it “nearly impossible” to assemble a full production record if they don’t have this information already available. She also recommended writing restrictions on these labor practices into contracts with suppliers, making forced labor an automatic breach of contract. 

“The time to plan for this, and to get working on it, is now. Not when you already have a WRO in place,” she said. 

Track trade policy at 

— The director of a Milwaukee clinic focused on post-COVID-19 conditions says as many as 300,000 people in Wisconsin could be affected by “long COVID.” 

Dr. Julie Biller is a professor, pulmonary medicine specialist and director of the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Post-COVID Multispecialty Clinic, which was created in January 2021. During a webinar yesterday hosted by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, she said the issue could impact the state’s workforce. 

Post-COVID-19 conditions include mental dysfunction such as memory problems and brain “fogginess,” as well as difficulty with sleeping and general fatigue. 

“It’s estimated looking at different countries around the world that 10 to 30 percent of people who have COVID … will develop this prolonged group of symptoms after COVID infection,” she said. “This can even happen to the 30 percent of people who have asymptomatic COVID.” 

In the year since the clinic has been up and running, she said it has received over 900 referrals and clinicians have seen over 600 patients.

“The overwhelming majority of these individuals were not hospitalized because of their COVID infection,” she said. 

Most of the clinic’s patients return to “close to their pre-COVID health,” she said. But many don’t fully recover, and some are unable to return to work due to the persistent symptoms. 

“This could have an impact on our workforce,” she said. 

The cause of this condition is still unknown, but Biller explained some theories include tiny amounts of the virus lingering in the body, as well as the virus causing a long-lasting inflammatory response. She added many patients with post-COVID-19 conditions report improvement in symptoms following vaccination. 

The National Institutes of Health has dedicated $1.5 billion to study “long COVID,” Biller said. She’s hopeful that as more research is done, scientists will determine “how we can be more effective in treating these individuals.” 

— Also during the webinar, MCW President and CEO Dr. John Raymond said “it is possible, maybe even likely” that the pandemic could be shifting into an endemic phase. 

Rather than the pandemic ending with the virus being completely eliminated, the expectation of an endemic means the virus will return annually but won’t have such a large impact. Examples of endemic viral infections include the common cold and flu. 

“We’ll have a baseline low level of transmission, we’ll have some predictability in terms of what we’re dealing with, and we will maybe have seasonal peaks but they won’t be as dramatic,” he said. 

But he noted “there’s always the possibility” of a new variant emerging with totally different properties, pointing to both delta and omicron arising within a span of about six months. 

Still, Raymond said the latest numbers of COVID-19 in Wisconsin show “very, very favorable” trends, as the state is “on the downturn from the omicron spike.” 

The latest seven-day average for new cases is 3,142 cases per day, continuing the sharp decline in case numbers following the recent peak of 18,826 cases on Jan. 19. 

Wisconsin’s percent positivity rate for tests “also is trending favorably,” at 14.1 percent, but remains relatively high. Raymond said that rate should ideally be under 5 percent. 

“On the other hand, the reproductive number is looking good, both in Milwaukee and in Wisconsin,” he said. “That is indicative of a shrinking pandemic trajectory.” 

Meanwhile, he noted the average for COVID-19 deaths is now trending downward in line with expectations given declining case numbers and hospitalizations. The latest seven-day average for deaths is 19 deaths per day, the Department of Health Services site shows. And total COVID-19 deaths in the state have reached 11,450. 

The Wisconsin Hospital Association dashboard shows a total of 1,251 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, including 232 intensive care patients. Both of those numbers have fallen by about 50 percent since the recent peak in early January. 

See the latest case numbers: 

See the WHA site: 

— The state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business is backing legislation that would limit the use of emergency powers in Wisconsin such that businesses could not be declared essential or nonessential. 

The bill would also require that any “action or regulation of a business relating to an emergency” must be applied to all businesses uniformly. 

Bill Smith, NFIB state director in Wisconsin, said in a statement that small businesses in the state see the legislation as a “simple win.” If it becomes law, he argues the state government could “no longer choose ‘winners’ and ‘losers.’” 

“One of the most challenging parts of COVID mandates here in Wisconsin have been the arbitrary designations by state government,” he said. “While big box businesses were allowed to stay open, some of our small business owners, who sold some of the same products, were mandated to close their doors.” 

AB 912 was introduced by Rep. Rob Swearingen, R-Rhinelander, and Sen. Eric Wimberger, R-Green Bay. A number of other GOP lawmakers have signed on as well. 

The state’s lobbying website shows five organizations have registered in support of the legislation: the National Federation of Independent Business, Wisconsin Independent Businesses, the Midwest-SouthEastern Equipment Dealers Association, the IRG Action Fund and Independent Insurance Agents of Wisconsin. The site shows no groups opposing the bill. 

See more on the bill here: 

— Gov. Tony Evers has announced more than $82 million in grants are being distributed to community organizations in the state through the Equitable Recovery Grant Program. 

The program aims to support groups working to reduce disparities in communities that are disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“From Beloit to Lac du Flambeau, the organizations receiving these grants have been on the frontlines of providing support to communities that have seen disparate outcomes throughout this pandemic, both in health and economic well-being,” Evers said in a statement. 

Recipients include free and charitable clinics, health advocacy groups, and other organizations providing health care, preventative care, and dental care. Grants range from around $17,000 to $1 million.

See more on the grant funding: 


# La Crosse, Town of Campbell leaders renew conversations over plans to address contaminated water for residents affected by PFAS

# Amazon wants to bring one of its largest facilities to Cottage Grove

# Crime is No. 1 issue challenging downtown hospitality, development, Milwaukee leaders say



– Mauston meat processing plant destroyed by fire


– Bipartisan bill to build juvenile prison near Milwaukee


– Marquette clinic offering free legal resources for local entrepreneurs


– Nominations sought for statewide ethical hunting award

– More anglers, leaner fish on tap for this year’s sturgeon spearing season


– Pizza Shuttle to transition to employee ownership


– Early-stage Wisconsin firms raised a record of nearly $811M in 2021


– to create 400 jobs in Kenosha with another building lease


– Harley-Davidson revenue jumps 40% in fourth quarter on higher motorcycle sales

– Harley-Davidson execs say new LiveWire products coming in second quarter

– Harley saw huge sales, profit gains in 2021


– Bills to put $20M in COVID aid into apprenticeships, revive tax breaks

– Wisconsin Legislature bills would end food stamp work requirement waivers, tighten requirements for Medicaid eligibility

– Republican bills aim to punish local governments that enact transportation utility fees

– Wisconsin GOP looks to block abortions if heartbeat detected

– Voting deputies visiting Wisconsin nursing homes despite recent COVID-19 surge


– Ziegler moving Milwaukee office to BMO Tower


– Former GM of Southridge Mall takes the helm at Bayshore

– Valley View Mall to be sold in public auction next month after foreclosure


– As Green Bay frets over shootings, city debates whether to buy tech that pinpoints gunfire


– What will Frontier-Spirit deal mean for Mitchell Airport?

– Appleton, Bird negotiate new conditions for return of electric scooters in 2022

– Gas prices rise in Wisconsin, region


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