Wisconsin Partnership Program announces $2.7 million in grants in response to COVID-19

May 1, 2020

The Wisconsin Partnership Program at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health has announced 22 new awards totaling $2.7 million to researchers and community organizations across Wisconsin for their efforts to lessen the impact of COVID-19.

“We are pleased to support such a broad range of innovative projects, including efforts to support the most vulnerable in our communities and studies that have the potential to advance the fight against this pandemic,” said Robert N. Golden, MD, dean of the School of Medicine and Public Health. “The Wisconsin Partnership Program has provided a nimble and highly responsive approach to addressing COVID-19 that is well aligned with our mission to improve health and well-being in Wisconsin.”

Community grants

The funded projects include 11 community-led initiatives funded by Wisconsin Partnership Program’s Oversight and Advisory Committee to support a wide range of efforts across the state to address the immediate health needs of Wisconsin’s diverse urban and rural communities.

Men’s Emergency Shelter-Virtual Health Assessments ($62,000) (Dane County)

Awarded to Porchlight, Inc. to immediately reduce the spread of COVID-19 by using an innovative technology-enabled solution of virtual volunteers to safely and accurately screen all homeless shelter guests daily and prior to entry of the homeless shelter sites.

Bilingual (English/Spanish) Short- and Long-term Assistance to Vulnerable Population ($32,290) (Madison)

Awarded to the Catholic Multicultural Center to address the impact of COVID-19 among its English and Spanish-speaking clients by addressing immediate needs of food and hygiene and helping to obtain employment or unemployment benefits.

Immediate COVID-19 Response for 4K-12 Students ($138,160) (Madison)

Awarded to the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) to provide immediate, extended, personalized support and resources for the physical and mental health of a group of 2000 MMSD 4K-12th graders with medical conditions associated with poor outcomes from COVID-19.

Farms to Families/De Granjas a Familias Resilience Boxes ($57,190) (Dane County)

Awarded to REAP Food Group in collaboration with Roots4Change, a cooperative of community health workers serving Dane County’s Latino/Indigenous families, to develop a delivery of care system related to the COVID-19 pandemic, informed by the needs of Latino/Indigenous families, local, small, and minority scale farmers, food entrepreneurs of color, and community-based doulas.

WeRISE: Black Birth Workers Response to COVID-19 Project ($149,600) (Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha counties)

Awarded to the African American Breastfeeding Network for Black Birth Workers (doulas) and the clients they serve to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among Black/African American families across southeastern Wisconsin.

Health Community Education Strategy for the Latino Community ($150,000) (Milwaukee)

Awarded to Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers to develop and disseminate accurate information as quickly and broadly as possible to help Milwaukee’s Latino community navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 Response for Milwaukee’s Uninsured Adults ($129,630) (Milwaukee)

Awarded to Bread of Healing Clinic to address and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 through outreach and access to care through telehealth for low-income people of color who are uninsured.

Services for Hmong and other Refugee Communities ($150,000) (statewide)

Awarded to the Hmong Institute to address the immediate COVID-19 related needs of underserved immigrant communities across the state. Specifically, this project will target Southeast Asian (e.g., Hmong, Laotian, Cambodian), Burmese (e.g., Karen, Rohingya), Nepalese and Tibetan elders and parents who lack access to mainstream services due to language and transportation barriers and face significant physical and mental health needs due to preexisting health disparities and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Markets to Address Food Insecurity of Vulnerable Populations ($54,010) (Green Bay)

Awarded to Wello to address food insecurity in Greater Green Bay through an approach that meets the needs of the area’s most vulnerable residents as well as local farmers.

Wood County Community Response to COVID-19 ($143,490) (Wood County)

Awarded to Marshfield Child Advocacy Center, Marshfield Clinic Health System, to reduce the risk of child maltreatment in Wood County families as a result of parental stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Barron County Integrated Response to Slow Community Spread of COVID-19 ($60,630) (Barron County)

Awarded to Barron County to reduce the spread of COVID-19 through innovative education and outreach efforts to the community’s Spanish and Somali communities, and in coordination with some of the county’s largest employers.

COVID-19 Wisconsin Connect app

The Oversight and Advisory Committee also awarded a strategic grant of $470,000 to support the new COVID-19 Wisconsin Connect app. The free desktop and mobile app provides accurate information, social support and helpful resources to help Wisconsinites navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. The Center for Health Enhancement System Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison developed the app in partnership with government, academic, medical, business and community organizations statewide. The project is led by David Gustafson, Sr., Center for Health Enhancement System Studies founder and director, and Dr. Ryan Westergaard, Chief Medical Officer of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Research grants (up to $150,000 each)

The following research grants, up to $150,000 each, were awarded by Wisconsin Partnership Program’s Partnership Education and Research Committee. The awards support UW–Madison researchers across campus in scientific, medical and public health approaches to lessening the impact of COVID-19 through improved testing, treatments and vaccine development, as well as projects that aim to protect the public and health care workforce from the virus.

Novel COVID-19 monoclonal antibodies for patient diagnostics, therapy and research

Awarded to David Andes, MD, UW Department of Medicine, to address the immediate need for testing and therapeutic strategies to treat COVID-19.

Alternative means to diagnose COVID-19 pneumonia

Awarded to Guang-Hong Chen, PhD, UW Department of Medical Physics, to improve the accuracy of identification of COVID-19 pneumonia on routine chest radiographs.

Leveraging social networks and trusted community influencers to disseminate an accurate and up-to-date understanding of COVID-19 in Black, Latinx and American Indian Communities

Awarded to Carey Gleason, PhD, UW Department of Medicine, to establish accurate communications about COVID-19 in underserved minority communities, including African American and Latinx communities and the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin by leveraging long-standing collaborative relationships with leaders in these communities.

A negative pressure isolation head chamber to protect health care workers from airborne transmission of aerosolized viruses

Awarded to Hau Le, MD, UW Department of Surgery, to address a significant need to protect health care workers during initial resuscitation/intubation of critically ill COVID-19 patients. The project will determine the effectiveness of a negative pressure isolation head chamber (“Badger Box”) in containing aerosol dispersion under laboratory and standard hospital room conditions.

Teaching the general public how to test and maintain readily available face masks

Awarded to Scott Sanders, PhD, UW–Madison College of Engineering, Department of Mechanical Engineering, to teach the public how to test a mask after they put it on, using a simple test, also developed by this project, and disseminate this critical information through instructional videos. The project will also teach the public how to maintain and safely reuse masks.

Creating infrastructure to study, test for and track the COVID-19 virus in Wisconsin

Awarded to Miriam Shelef, MD, PhD, UW Department of Medicine, to establish a COVID-19 convalescent tissue biorepository for blood and nasal samples from individuals who have recovered from COVID-19. This will be used in research and to track the prevalence of the coronavirus in south central Wisconsin by collecting discarded plasma from blood donated by patients with no symptoms of COVID-19.

Role of naso-oropharyngeal antiseptic decolonization to reduce COVID-19 viral shedding and disease transmission: SHIELD Study

Awarded to Daniel Shirley, MD, UW Department of Medicine, to assess the feasibility and efficacy of self-administered nasal and oropharyngeal disinfectants in reducing the development of COVID-19 illness in health care workers.

COVID-19 and the nasal microbiome: potential marker of disease outcomes and novel antivirals

Awarded to Cameron Currie, PhD, UW–Madison College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Department of Bacteriology, to study the nasal microbiome to determine potential compositions that are associated with COVID-19 outcomes for predictive biomarkers of disease severity and to discover novel naturally occurring novel antiviral compounds.

Genetic surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 spread in Wisconsin to inform outbreak control

Awarded to Thomas Friedrich, PhD, UW–Madison School of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Pathobiological Sciences, to undertake genetic surveillance of coronavirus spread in Wisconsin and also determine whether an outbreak is due to community spread or an introduction of coronavirus into a community due to travel within or into the state.

To test the protective efficacy of whole-inactivated SARS-CoV-2 vaccine in Syrian hamsters

Awarded to Yoshihiro Kawaoka, DVM, PhD, UW–Madison School of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Pathobiological Sciences, to test a novel approach for developing a potential vaccine for COVID-19 in a recently established animal model for coronavirus research.

The Wisconsin Partnership Program is an endowment within the UW School of Medicine and Public Health that is committed to improving health and advancing health equity through investments in community partnerships, education and research. It was established in 2004 through an unprecedented gift as part of the conversion of Blue Cross and Blue Shield United of Wisconsin to a stock insurance corporation to improve health and well-being in Wisconsin. To date, the Wisconsin Partnership Program has awarded more than 500 research, education and community partnership grants totaling more than $245 million to improve the health of the people of Wisconsin.