Reopening Wisconsin


Reopening Wisconsin: Current Economic & Health Indexes

Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy, UW-Madison
May 7, 2020


Executive Summary

  • In our report, “Reopening Wisconsin” we provide both economic and health metrics to consider when moving toward relaxing social distancing guidelines. This brief updates the current economic and health indexes.
  • We estimate that the COVID-19 pandemic in Wisconsin is costing roughly $1.5 billion per week in lost economic activity. We estimate a 26.6% decline in output and a 16.2 percentage point increase in unemployment statewide through May 5, 2020.
  • On average the counties which were in the worst economic condition prior to the pandemic have had the largest declines in economic activity.
  • Menominee County, the poorest county in the state, has seen 27% of its labor force file for unemployment benefits since March 15. Through May 6, there has been one confirmed case of COVID-19 in Menominee County.
  • We also analyze health factors at a regional level. At least two of the state’s Health Emergency Readiness Coalition (HERC) regions still face high health risks.
  • At least three HERC regions have had very low rates of infections and positive tests for COVID-19, and may be close to satisfying the current health guidelines.
  • We suggest that as policymakers consider reopening the economy, they move toward a phased-in regional relaxation of social distancing guidelines.
Read the Update here
Left panel: Estimated increase in unemployment rate by county (3/15/20-5/5/20, percent). Right panel: cumulative confirmed COVID-19 cases by county over last 7 days (4/30/20-5/6/20, per 100,000 residents, log scale).

Current economic index and its components statewide and in the five highest and lowest counties in Wisconsin.


Current health index and its components by HERC region.

Reopening Wisconsin: Regional Health and Economic Factors

Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy, UW-Madison
April 28, 2020


Executive Summary

  • Most states have imposed stay-at-home orders to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Now many are considering guidelines for reopening, which have been based solely on current health indicators. We consider both economic and health factors, accounting for differences across regions and industries.
  • We estimate that the COVID-19 pandemic in Wisconsin is costing roughly $1.7 billion per week in lost economic activity. We estimate a 30% decline in output and a 13 percentage point increase in unemployment statewide through April 18, 2020.
  • On average the counties which were in the worst economic condition prior to the pandemic have had the largest declines in economic activity.
  • We estimate that the statewide Safer at Home order accounts for only 20% of the output decline, with the balance due to other mostly voluntary distancing measures.
  • We also analyze health factors at a regional level. At least two of the state’s Health Emergency Readiness Coalition (HERC) regions still face high health risks.
  • At least three HERC regions have had very low rates of infections and positive tests for COVID-19, and may be close to satisfying the current health guidelines.
  • However at least some counties within these regions face higher risks from infection due to a larger vulnerable population and lower health system capacity.
  • We suggest that as policymakers consider reopening the economy, they move toward a phased-in regional relaxation of social distancing guidelines.
Read the Full Report here
reopening wisconsin Wisconsin COVID-19 CROWE
“On average, the counties in Wisconsin that were in worse economic condition before the COVID-19 pandemic have suffered the largest losses during the crisis.” Noah Williams, April 28, 2020.