WMC pitches reopening plan based on infection rate, population, industry and health care capacity

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Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce is proposing a plan to reopen the Wisconsin economy by accounting for conditions in specific counties and a company’s industry.

The “Back to Business” plan unveiled Friday morning would use a company’s county of operation and industry to determine what kind of precautions the company would need to take in its operations.

WMC noted the plan was unveiled the same day Gov. Tony Evers original “Safer at Home” order was set to expire. The governor extended his order to May 26, but did make some modifications. WMC is proposing to have its plan go into place on May 4.

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The formula WMC is proposing would rely on the COVID-19 infection rate, population density and health care capacity in a company’s county of operation. That information would be combined with the interactive concentration of the company’s industry.

Each business would receive a risk score and mitigation requirements based on the formula data. The requirements range from encouraging employees who can work from home to do so at the minimal level, expanded cleaning and disinfection programs at the moderate level and mandatory PPE for employees at the substantial level.

The requirements could also be customized to unique circumstances of an industry. A drinking place with alcoholic beverages could be required to keep all tables six feet apart and no more than six people at a table at the moderate risk level, according to draft factors from the Tavern League of Wisconsin.

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Interactive concentrations for each industry would be developed based on OSHA guidelines and medical community input with each receiving a score of 1 to 3, according to a WMC presentation.

“This is not flipping a switch, it is turning a dial,” said Kurt Bauer, president and chief executive officer of WMC. “We cannot just reopen the economy overnight, which is why this plan takes a tactical approach on a busines- to-business and region-to-region basis. What is right for Milwaukee County might not be right for Vernon County or St. Croix County.”

For the localized measures, the plan also calls for 1 to 3 scores on a number of metrics. Counties with more than 750 people per square mile would receive a 3, those with 251 to 750 people would receive a 2 and those with less than 250 people per square mile would receive a 1.

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On infection rates, the formula would use a seven-day average of a county’s infection rate based on the number of tests and number of positive tests. Those with a greater than 20% infection rate would receive a 3, a 10% to 20% infection rate would earn a 2 and less than 10% would result in a 1.

For hospital capacity, each county would be scored based on its region’s percentage of ICU beds available, PPE gowns in stock, N95 masks in stock, paper masks in stock and availability of ventilators. Each factor would receive a 1 to 3 score and the final score would be the highest of any score.

WMC says the model’s advantages include providing employers with steps to take, use of industry specific risk factors, customization to local circumstances and use of data from public health regulators and medical professionals.

The organization said the model also is responsive and adjusts based on current data and is designed to prevent overwhelming hospital systems.

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