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Wisconsin economy still faces COVID-19 threat as we wait on a vaccine

Posted at 1:11 PM, Nov 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-18 14:11:06-05

MILWAUKEE — Wisconsin Manufacturing and business leaders met this morning to discuss the financial impacts the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have in Wisconsin, as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise and as the number of deaths breaks records.

During the weekly Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce call Wednesday, Dr. John Raymond, President and CEO of The Medical College of Wisconsin gave an update on the state of COVID-19 and said that vaccines being made could be distributed by the end of the year, possibly available to the public by early to mid 2021.

"That gives me hope that we will be able to immunize a large portion of the population," said Dr. Raymond.

As people consider the upcoming holiday season, Dr. Raymond told the group meeting today that in-person holiday gatherings are a bad idea because they could spread the virus in ways that could end up hurting both Wisconsin's economy and the state's healthcare system, which is at risk of being overwhelmed, though it is not there yet.

Looking ahead, Professor Noah Williams, Director of UW-Madison's Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy, agreed that the vaccine is good news, but said it could be a while before businesses see a bounce-back.

"Expect more of the same for another 6-9 months and by that I mean restrictions..." said Williams.

Despite social distancing guidelines and restrictions, Williams presented some evidence that Wisconsin's economic recovery is proving to be strong in some cases, though he notes major shifts to the way people are spending their money.

"As people have shifted from going out, going to restaurants, going to movies, going on vacations, what we’ve seen is more spending at home, food at home, home goods and more spending on autos and boats and other leisure time activities," said Williams.

Williams said leisure, hotel and hospitality industries continue to be hit the hardest in Wisconsin.

Williams also said online shopping could end up having implications on the economy, too. More people are choosing to shop using large online retailers, which could impact smaller businesses.

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