UPDATE (4/13/21): In a media briefing on Tuesday, Milwaukee Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson said the city’s current health order—Phase 6—will remain in effect for at least four weeks.
Late last week, the City of Milwaukee Health Department said it “anticipates changing the public health order next week from Phase 6 to Phase 5.” The change will be the first time (we think?) that the city’s Moving MKE Forward Safely program has moved backward.
The change “will reduce capacity limits,” though “many locations with approved safety plans will not be substantially affected by the move to Phase 5,” explained a press release.
“It seems counterintuitive. At a time when vaccinations are available and everyone is aware of safe practices, we should see COVID-19 infection rates declining. That is not the case,” Commissioner Kirsten Johnson said. “The presence of newer, easily transmitted COVID variants is one likely culprit; another factor is COVID fatigue. With the finish line in sight, we all need to take every reasonable precaution to limit the spread of the virus.”
Why the regression? According to a press release:
The gating criteria monitored by the Milwaukee Health Department continue to raise concern. The seven-day rate of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people stands at 95.6, a number that shows “substantial transmission.” The percentage of positive tests increased to 5%, elevating that metric to “moderate transmission.”
COVID-19 variants, including the B.1.1.7 or UK variant, are present in Milwaukee. This particular variant is associated with increased transmission and more significant health consequences including death.
The Phase 6 public health order allows folks to “walk throughout an establishment without masks on while holding food and/or drink,” bumped the capacity limit for places without a COVID safety plan to 50% (up from 25%), and opened dance floors. It went into effect on March 19. Days later, Johnson was floating the idea of moving backward.
“Again, watching this cautiously, and if we have to we will roll back some of the things we opened up,” Johnson said on March 24.
“Unless there are changes, the health department will be issuing a new order in the coming weeks reimposing restrictions that were eased just a week and a half ago,” Johnson said on March 30. “This has implications for entertainment, restaurants, museums, and bars.
“There is an interim order, or restrictions, that we jumped over from the last order,” Johnson continued, explaining the jump from Phase 4.4 to Phase 6, “so it’s likely we would move back to that interim order.”
Until then, get vaccinated, Milwaukee (and Wisconsin). Here’s more info:
Vaccine eligibility and availability changed this week as all Wisconsin residents ages sixteen and over can now receive the COVID-19 vaccine. For the first time, the supply of vaccine is sufficient to meet the demand at the Wisconsin Center vaccination site and at community vaccination sites. Same-day appointments were available at the Wisconsin Center site, and, at least temporarily, walk-ins were welcome there.
Vaccination appointments can still be made through the Health Department’s scheduling portal and vaccine information hub at milwaukee.gov/covidvax. People without internet access can schedule appointments by calling 414-286-6800.
Starting Monday, April 12th, the COVID-19 testing at American Family Field will be changing. Testing will now be available Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 9:00 am until 3:00 pm. The location in the stadium parking lot is moving east to the “Yount” lot. COVID-19 testing continues to be available at the Southside Health Center and the Northwest Health Center six days per week from 9:00 am until 2:00 pm. The most up to date information about testing is available at Milwaukee.gov/covidtesting or by calling 414-286-6800. People with COVID-19 symptoms and everyone potentially exposed to someone infected with COVID19 are encouraged to be tested.
[The above picture of The Wicked Hop was taken in January 2020, a.k.a. pre-pandemic times.]
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• Milwaukee health order limiting bars and restaurants with previously approved full-capacity safety plans to 50% capacity will expire Friday, thus allowing bars and restaurants with previously approved full-capacity safety plans to return to full capacity