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WMC says 'one-size-fits-all' plan isn't best for businesses, unveils county-based approach

NOW: WMC says ’one-size-fits-all’ plan isn’t best for businesses, unveils county-based approach

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Wisconsin's largest business group is unveiling a new plan that would allow businesses to strategically start to reopen on May 4.

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce announced "Back to Business" on Friday. The plan uses a county-by-county approach, and the higher the risk in each county, the more precautions businesses there would have to take in order to open.

WMC developed a model that scores businesses on several factors, including COVID-19 infection rates, and numbers of hospital beds and PPE available in each county. Different types of businesses would also have different restrictions.

"It is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It's an approach that recognizes that different parts of the state are dealing with very different infection rates and COVID-19 transmission rates," said Scott Manley, executive vice president of government relations for Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce.

But the chair of Marquette University's finance department, Dr. Matteo Arena, said WMC's plan has "a big flaw" in that it underestimates travel between counties.

"Let's suppose that we open Sheboygan and we close Milwaukee. There are a lot of people that work in Sheboygan that work in Milwaukee so they will travel there. There are great restaurants in Sheboygan County so people on the weekend from Milwaukee might just drive up there right. So you're going to spread the disease no matter what," Arena said.

Manley said the models can account for that and increase requirements businesses would need to take.

"If public health conditions in a particular area change either because they get better or because they get worse, the model will automatically adjust for that in real time," Manley said.

Arena said there are several consequences associated with reopening the economy too early, including a lack of customers willing to go spend money. He wrote an analysis for Marquette explaining that saving lives means saving the economy.

"There's a misconception that we need to choose between the two when actually it's not the case because saving lives will also save economic value," Manley said.

Gov. Tony Evers released a statement about WMC's plan saying in part, "I appreciate the work that went into this plan and am glad that the business community agrees with me that we have to approach this like we are turning a dial, not flipping a switch."

Evers has said the state needs to increase testing capacity and contract tracing before he can consider reopening businesses, and WMC's plan does not address that.

WMC also is calling for businesses to open on May 4, but Evers' Badger Bounce Plan is in effect until May 26.

"If the governor's order stays in place until at least May 26, we would not encourage a business to break the law. From our standpoint though, we do not think May 26 is a realistic date," Manley said.

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