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COVID-19 spike forces Milwaukee companies to delay office reopenings

city of milwaukee
Posted at 7:07 AM, Dec 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-29 18:31:50-05

MILWAUKEE — A number of Milwaukee-area companies are postponing their in-person return to offices amid a spike in COVID-19 cases spurred by the Omicron variant.

This comes amid a soaring number of confirmed cases and hospitalizations in the area, at levels not seen since the highs recorded in November and December of last year.

The latest data from the Milwaukee County COVID-19 Surveillance Dashboard showed the 7-day average of new cases is 803. The 7-day average of tests coming back positive for COVID-19 is 20%.

Our partners at the Milwaukee Business Journal report three major companies in our area are halting plans to return employees to offices, as office-managers face a concerning turn in the fight against the coronavirus. Two others are holding steady with their return plans, while one has yet to announce a decision.

Changes to return policies are occurring at the following firms, according to the BizJournal:

  • WEC Energy Group: Canceling plans to return to the office, originally set for people currently working virtually for Jan. 10, 2022. “We will continue to evaluate the situation and establish a new time frame for returning to the workplace in 2022,” a company spokesperson said.
  • Law firm Quarles & Brady LLP: Canceling plans to return to the office on Jan. 3.
  • Wells Fargo: Delayed return to office, no date set.

MORE COVERAGE: Omicron is now the dominant variant in Wisconsin

Meanwhile some companies are standing with their return-to-office policies:

  • Law firm Husch Blackwell LLP: Plans on returning to the office in the week of Jan. 3, 2022. “We are aiming at a return to the office on Jan. 3 and are closely monitoring guidance from government authorities at the federal, state, and local levels, as well as advice from public health officials," the company told the BizJournal.
  • Rockwell Automation Inc.: Plans on returning to the office on Jan. 4, 2022. Office employees must work in person 50% of the time.

And one company has not made an announcement with changes:

  • Northwestern Mutual: Employees can work in the office and must either provide COVID-19 vaccine verification or weekly COVID-19 testing. There is no date set for required in-person working.

A recent Gartner survey found 44% of companies pushed back or altered reopening plans because of the omicron variant.

"There was some concern what would it mean to bring a bunch of employees back when cases are that high so they've been working very efficiently at home. They've been remaining dedicated at their jobs let's continue to do that until it makes more sense," said WEC Energy spokesperson Brendan Conway.

Conway went on to say the change impacts 30% of their workforce that has been remote since the pandemic started.

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