Jeramey Jannene

Milwaukee Releases Five Criteria To Open Up

Barrett and Kowalik have phased plan to reopen city. Revised order allows gyms to open.

By - May 21st, 2020 05:00 pm
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Jeanette Kowalik. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Jeanette Kowalik. File photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik confirmed the five gating criteria the city is monitoring with regard to when to loosen its public health restrictions during a Thursday afternoon press briefing.

The criteria, first revealed by Kowalik on Wednesday during a Common Council meeting, include the number of cases, positive case rate trend, ability of hospitals to treat patients without crisis care, supply of personal protective equipment and contact tracing response.

The City of Milwaukee has maintained its open-ended health order while the 18 Milwaukee County suburbs will let theirs expire Thursday night. The state’s order, scheduled to last through May 26th, was struck down by the Wisconsin Supreme Court last week. Both Barrett and Kowalik have characterized the voided and lapsing of orders as politics, not science.

“We have to have a steady, graduated, resumption of normal life,” said Barrett. He said opening too quickly could result in the need to quickly shut things back down.

The Milwaukee criteria largely mirror the Badger Bounce Plan plan the state was using based on federal guidance.

Barrett characterized a revised order issued last week and one issued today by Kowalik as moving to phase two. “We are now at the point where we want to examine how we get to phase three,” said the Mayor.

Kowalik’s new order allows gym to reopen with no more than 10 people and expands capacity for stores based on their size. Barrett said all businesses in the city, with the exception of bars and restaurants, are now allowed to open. Bars and restaurants can continue to offer carryout and curbside service.

The Mayor said the city would reevaluate its progress every Friday. “My goal next Friday is to have all sorts of good news,” he said.

Dr. Ben Weston, Milwaukee County medical services director, said when looking at the largest cities across the country, Milwaukee is not an island. “Twenty-three out of the 25 have strict restrictions in place,” he said.

But within the area, it will become one on Friday when suburban bars and residents can reopen to in-person patronage.

Barrett said the city needs a strong public health plan. “We are by far the most diverse city in the state and we are by far the city that has the most challenging economic situation,” he said.

Kowalik said maintaining the city’s order allows for enforcement, compared to the suburban plan rely on recommendations and guidelines. “We are doing a fair, measured approach to enforcement,” said Kowalik.

A total of 4,387 Milwaukee residents have tested positive for COVID-19. Milwaukee County as a whole, including the city, has had 5,631 residents test positive. A total of 246 county residents have died from the disease according to the county’s dashboard.

“Ultimately the data tells the story that COVID is not over in our community,” said Darren Rausch, public health officer for the City of Greenfield. “I would say staying home is probably the safest thing you can do this weekend.”

“We have to take baby steps, we can’t be unrealistic with where we are going with this,” said Kowalik.

The city will monitor its progress on the criteria like a traffic light, with green, yellow and red indicators.

Kowalik said the city would consider loosening restrictions even if the criteria were “yellow” with regard to their status.

The city’s five criteria and its progress according to a verbal report from Kowalik on Wednesday:

  • Cases – a 14 day statistically significant downward trend or less than five percent positive rate (Status: Yellow, no statistical significance)
  • Testing – 2,400 tests per day or less than five percent positive rate (Status: Red, but Kowalik said two free testing sites will improve things. “We hope to be there by next week,” said Barrett on Thursday.)
  • Care – Hospital capacity to treat without crisis care (Status: Green, but Milwaukee County has reported a 29 increase hospitalization load week-over-week as of Wednesday)
  • PPE – All hospitals have a 29 or greater day supply of equipment (Status: Yellow, 8-28 day supply)
  • Contact Tracing – 100 percent of cases followed up on within 24 hours (Status: Yellow, 50 to 99 percent within 24 hours)

You can see the countywide progress on the measures on the Milwaukee County COVID-19 dashboard under the “key indicators.”

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