The Network Effect
The Chamber has a virtual portal for employers to submit questions relating to COVID-19 and its impact on business. Responses are posted at

Submit questions about the Forward Dane reopening strategy, Gov. Evers' "Badger Bounce Back" plan, availability of assistance for your business and more by visiting and entering the event code #ASK4BIZ (or simply click here to go directly to the page). Questions can also be submitted via email at

Good evening --

Here are the latest updates on the COVID-19 outbreak and our organizational efforts to inform and ensure an effective community response.

Today's highlights include details of Dane County's reopening strategy, new state small business assistance measures and a new Chamber portal where you can share your business's reopening plans.


Today, Public Health Madison & Dane County unveiled a business reopening strategy called Forward Dane, which takes effect tomorrow (May 19) at 8 a.m., with a safe reopen starting as early as June 2. Businesses should review Forward Dane and work on a reopening plan that includes policies for hygiene, cleaning, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and social distancing.

The new plan is modeled after Gov. Tony Evers' "Badger Bounce Back" plan but also includes Dane County-specific health metrics that will be monitored and updated weekly to assess different phases for business reopening.

Increased Transparency

Unlike the Badger Bounce Back, Forward Dane clearly states how we advance to the next reopening phase. When all metrics are at least yellow, we move to phase one. At least 14 days later, we move to phase two when more than half of the metrics are green and none of the epidemiological metrics (daily new cases, positive test rate) are red. At least 14 days after that, we move to phase three if more than half of the metrics are still green and none of the metrics in Dane County or the Southern Region are red. We remain in phase three until widespread protections are available (i.e. treatments, vaccines).

More Outdoors

Forward Dane acknowledges that transmission risk is lower outdoors and allows for more economic activity and larger gatherings outside. Restaurants will be able to utilize outdoor seating to serve more customers beyond the indoor capacity limits. Outdoor social and mass gathering limits are at least twice as high as the indoor limits.

Less Ambiguity

Forward Dane provides more detail for specific industries. Instead of treating businesses as essential and non-essential, industry guidelines are outlined. This tailored approach allows for more segments of the economy to reopen safely.

While the Badger Bounce Back listed Core State Responsibilities around testing, tracing and tracking, it did not measure all of these or provide targets. Forward Dane includes the following metrics in decision making: lab reporting timeliness and contact tracing, community spread, and surveillance.

Improved Metrics

Forward Dane adjusts its COVID-like syndromic cases metric so the lack of a significant increase is sufficient. This adjustment recognizes that these cases have already declined substantially, which would make a statistically significant downward trajectory incredibly difficult to maintain. The lack of a significant increase is a more meaningful metric.

Forward Dane also adjusts its positive test rate metric to account for the low rate that Dane County has had for weeks. Instead, the plan sets thresholds that are used by public health experts to determine whether adequate testing is being done to track and trace outbreaks.

As we have done from the start, the Chamber will continue to push for updates and clarifications to this plan as they become necessary. We must protect public health while enabling economic activity that will lead to an accelerated recovery. Continued public-private collaboration will be critical to accomplishing that while also bolstering public confidence in our community strategy.

Click here for a more detailed breakdown of the plan, or here for more about the plan's Dane County-specific health metrics. View the full Public Health order here.


Tomorrow (May 19), we invite you to join us from 12:15 to 1:00 p.m. for the latest edition of Lunch(UP)date, which will feature both Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and Public Health Madison & Dane County Director Janel Heinrich discussing the new Forward Dane plan and what it means for Dane County businesses.

Register here to take a break and enjoy lunch while staying connected, curious and informed.

This is a unique opportunity to hear from both the County Executive and the Director of Public Health in a long-form Q&A format. Submit in advance any questions you have for either of them, or the Chamber, to


As we move toward reopening our economy, we are committed to helping businesses take the steps necessary to ensure the health and safety of their workers and customers. To that end, the Chamber has launched a portal to aggregate reopening best practices by industry type, socialize them with businesses and the broader community, advocate on your behalf with local government officials and bolster public confidence in this reopening phase.

Some resources you can consult for examples of reopening procedures and protocols include guidelines from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (general and industry-specific), Wisconsin Safety Council (Returning to Work) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Reopening Guidance and Business FAQ).

Share your reopening plans here.

With our economy on the cusp of reopening, your participation is even more important as we work to meet this unprecedented challenge. Please contact us with any questions.


Today, Gov. Tony Evers announced $75 million in direct assistance for small businesses as part of “We’re All In,” a new Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) initiative designed to help small businesses most impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Funded largely through the CARES Act, these $2,500 cash grants will assist with the costs of business interruption or for health and safety improvements, wages and salaries, rent, mortgages and inventory.
Grant recipients must have 20 or fewer full-time employees, not have already received WEDC COVID-19 assistance and must commit to certain safety protocols in their workplaces to protect customers, employees and communities. More program details will be released later this month, and businesses can start applying for grant assistance in early June.
“We’re All In” will also include Ethnic Minority Emergency Grants, a program providing $2 million in grants for ethnically diverse Wisconsin micro-businesses who suffered losses related to COVID-19. The grants are aimed at sole proprietorships or businesses with five or fewer employees that have not received assistance under the state Small Business 20/20 program or federal Paycheck Protection Program.

As part of the Wisconsin Ready plan, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) is working to identify manufacturers to supply Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other materials to businesses as they reopen. 
Businesses looking for PPE can search for masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and shields. Manufacturers of PPE can list themselves as a supplier by filling out a profile on the site.
Learn more here.


Last week, the Chamber hosted the latest in our Virtual Industry Meeting (VIM) series, as biotech leaders assessed current needs for their businesses and sharing projections for the three phases of responding to the COVID-19 outbreak: relief, reopening and recovery.

A majority of attendees said they have moved all non-lab-related employees to remote work, with additional safety measures instituted for employees still in labs, including social distancing, staggered shifts and stringent cleaning practices. Several found relief through federal assistance programs, though some businesses are struggling with sales due to the lockdown of hospitals and halting of elective procedures. Many continue to directly assist in testing for or eradicating the virus, as well as manufacturing and stockpiling inventory they believe will be needed when hospitals fully reopen. 
Moving toward reopening, participants expressed caution about what that will look like due to sensitivity of their labs. Many also said they are looking for widespread testing and surveillance both internally and externally. Looking forward, several companies are considering a move to more remote work long-term and shared several ideas for accelerating recovery, including government and venture funding, international cooperation and a coordinated effort to increase awareness of the biotech industry in Greater Madison and Wisconsin.
The Chamber has also convened lenders, developers, commercial property owners, manufacturers, and insurance and healthtech leaders as part of our Virtual Industry Meeting series to help inform our advocacy. Please continue to share with us any policy ideas and recommendations.


For a full archive of previously shared resources, visit

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