Jeramey Jannene

Milwaukee Maintaining Its Health Order At Least One More Week

Dashboard shows Milwaukee has actually regressed in fighting COVID-19.

By - May 29th, 2020 04:28 pm
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Milwaukee City Hall. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee City Hall. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee’s progress in fighting COVID-19 has actually regressed in the past week according to Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik

“The criteria we have laid out has not been as encouraging as I hoped it would be,” said Mayor Tom Barrett in a press conference. “My fervent hope today was that I could come in today and say that life was back to normal… unfortunately, that’s not where we are now.”

Last week the city unveiled five criteria it was monitoring to ease its public health order that replaced a statewide health order voided by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The city’s criteria are a localized form of those put forth by the Trump administration.

“We are committed to science and data to drive our decision making,” said Kowalik. But she said the has actually moved backward on three of the five metrics.

The Milwaukee Health Department is looking for a 14 day statistically significant downward trend in the percent of tests that come back positive or a less than five percent positive rate. That factor was previously “yellow,” but is now “red,” reflecting an upward trend.

Progress on two other critieria has regressed.

The care criteria, the ability of hospitals to treat all patients without crisis care and the number of COVID-19 cases in hospitals representing less than 10 percent of those hospitalized was green, and is now yellow, indicating that between 95 to 99 percent of hospitals are operating without crisis care and COVID-19 patients represent between 10 to 20 percent of all hospitalized patients. Hospitalizations have increased across the state.

The city’s contact tracing efforts are also sliding, even as the number of people doing the work has expanded.

“We have been able to expand our contact tracing pool to about 170 individuals,” said Kowalik. “As you are seeing a surge in cases that means there is more work to do.” The goal is to contact 100 percent of positive cases within 24 hours, and the city previously had been doing so with more than 50 percent of cases (yellow). The measure is now red. “We are nowhere close to where we need to be.”

The city has maintained the status quo on the supply of personal protective equipment (yellow, 8 to 28 day supply) and the number of tests performed (red). Kowalik said the city has recorded 230 to 470 tests per day, but has a goal of 2,400. She said the city continues to work on establishing permanent testing sites and is thankful for the temporary sites staffed by the Wisconsin National Guard.

The city is currently in phase two of its plan, dubbed Moving Milwaukee Forward Safely. “We were hopeful we could move into three today, but we’re not there,” said Kowalik. “We’re very hopeful about this.” Phase two allowed groups of up to ten in socially-distant settings and for all businesses to open but in-person dining or drinking to operate with capacity restrictions.

“We are not able to lift a restriction on dining at this time,” said Kowalik.

Would the city consider allowing outdoor dining before indoor dining? “We are evaluating that. We know some other jurisdictions are using that approach,” she said.

“We are looking at ways we could do that that do not create a disparate treatment,” said Barrett, noting that the City Attorney’s office was involved. “This is an issue that we have explored and are exploring in real time.”

Milwaukee is the lone community in Milwaukee County to have an order as of last week and one of just a handful of communities in the state. The only other major city is Racine. Racine County has the second greatest per-capita outbreak, with Milwaukee County in third.

Both Barrett and Kowalik have characterized the voided and lapsing of orders as politics, not science. The City of Milwaukee has the highest number of cases of any Wisconsin municipality, with 5,976 confirmed cases and 182 deaths.

A copy of the order and other guidelines can be found on the Moving Milwaukee Forward Safely website. Progress on the five gating criteria, updated daily, can be monitored on the city’s COVID-19 dashboard (see: key performance metrics).

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Categories: Health

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