Milwaukee Increases Bar Capacity to 50% As Cases Spike Statewide
Changes go into effect July 1st. City also unveils plan to allow 100 percent capacity.
Two of five gating criteria used to evaluate Milwaukee’s fight against COVID-19 got worse in Milwaukee in the past week, but the city still announced it is loosening restrictions on bars and restaurants.
Under Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik, the city has moved to “phase four” of its Moving Milwaukee Forward plan. The change allows bars and restaurants to increase their capacity on July 1st from 25 percent to 50 percent.
The move comes as across Wisconsin the positive COVID-19 case rate, a key indicator of the spread of the disease, has increased to levels not seen since early June.
“We will remain in this phase for a minimum of 14 days, which is the incubation period of COVID-19,” said the Milwaukee Health Department in a release.
As part of the change, the health department also unveiled a template for its voluntary program for restaurants to be allowed full capacity after having a COVID-19 mitigation plan approved. Being granted 100 percent capacity would require all employees to wear masks, while the current health order stops short of requiring masks for all because of “equity concerns.”
Last week, two weeks after allowing bars and restaurants to open for in-person service, the department reported three green lights and two yellow lights. The city has moved backward on two factors, the trend in new COVID-19 cases and the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) at area healthcare facilities.
COVID-19 case data, current as of June 25th, shows “no significant trend for cases” reports the health department, with a positive case rate of 7.8 percent. To meet the green level, that the city previously had achieved, there must be a 14-day statistically significant negative trend or a positive case rate of under 5 percent.
The city also moved backward on the supply of PPE at hospitals. The metric, tracked by Milwaukee County, previously had the majority of area hospitals reporting supplies in excess of 29 days. That has fallen to a majority of hospitals reporting an eight to 28 day supply.
Two indicators have been maintained as “yellow”: the percentage of individuals testing positive that are successfully contacted within three attempts by the health department (50 to 95 percent) and the number of tests performed (1,200-2,000 tests per day or 5 to 10 percent positive for five days). An average of 928 people per day were tested in the past week, up from 517 in the week prior, but the positive case rate is now 7.8 percent.
The health care capacity indicator has been maintained at the “green” level, “100% not in crisis care AND <10% of hospital patients are COVID+.”
The city’s progress in meeting the gating criteria can be reviewed on the Milwaukee Health Department website.
The guidelines in the five gating criteria are based on the state’s Badger Bounce Back plan that was produced in April from federal guidance.
The city, which has issued prior phase changes with a press conference including Mayor Tom Barrett, announced phase four with a press release.
Other Changes in Phase Four
- Chartered fishing excursions – must be the lesser of the three: 50 percent of the total occupancy of the location, one person for every 30 square feet or 250 people
- Child care providers and youth programs – 75 percent capacity
- Faith-based gatherings – must be the lesser of the three: 50 percent of the total occupancy of the location, one person for every 30 square feet or 250 people
- Gyms – must be the lesser of the three: 50 percent of the total occupancy of the location, one person for every 30 square feet or 250 people
- Hotels/motels – 50 percent capacity, pools, hot tubs and exercise facilities with more detailed limits
- Salons and spas – one client per service provider
- Stores – 75 percent capacity
- Youth summer programs – 75 percent capacity
Additional restrictions might apply can be found in the order.
A full copy of the 14-page, phase four health order can be found on Urban Milwaukee.
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