At the Capitol, on Thursday an informational hearing on a Back to Business plan from Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce included a lot of discussion about the risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic – and the risks posed to the state’s economy.

“The impact of shutting down our economy and keeping it shut down has been devastating, and frankly it’s getting worse every day,” said WMC’s Scott Manley.

Mike Nikolai, President and CEO of Waupaca Foundry. as among the business leaders who addressed the Assembly Committee on State Affairs.

“If you’re in the right age group, you do die. The severity of this situation is simple, but you have to look at the other risk factors in it,” Nikolai said. “What is the occurrence the demographics, and I think it gives you a reasonable way to address how to reopen the economy, because if you want zero risk, then you’ll have zero economic activity.”

“We all want to get Wisconsin back to work,” said Representative Tod Ohnstad (D-Kenosha) “But we also have to make sure that we do it responsibly, in a way that protects our workers, protects our citizens, and protects our senior citizen. As somebody who’s going to turn 68 next week, that’s pretty close to 70, I don’t want to die from COVID and I don’t want my neighbors to die as well, and I’m sure you don’t either.

Supporters of the plan argue Governor Tony Evers’ extended Safer at Home order risks irrevocable damage to Wisconsin’s economy.

Troy Berg is CEO of Dane Manufacturing.  “Let’s not make the assumption that everybody that gets C-19 is going to in effect die.,” he said “The death rates are somewhere between point-one to four percent, depending on what studies you want to look at, and the majority of the people that die are over 70 years old. ”

Berg said his work force is younger than the over-70 demographic most at risk from COVID-19. “At some point we have to deal the differences between a life and livelihood. Because if you impact this business much longer than the end of May, we’re not going to be here for the 14-hundred people that are impacted by the business.”

WMC’s Back to Business plan includes a formula to determine the risk for businesses, using factors like the infection rate in the county of operation, population density in that county and “interactive concentration” in that type of business. Companies would be designated as being at minimal, moderate or substantial risk.

Republican legislative leaders have been supportive of the plan, and have asked Governor Tony Evers to support it as well.


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