Jeramey Jannene

New Order Allows Milwaukee Schools To Reopen, Could Halt Indoor Dining

Bars and restaurants required to have safety plan by September 15th or face "capacity limits."

By - Jul 31st, 2020 02:14 pm
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Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik at the mask mandate signing ceremony. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik at the mask mandate signing ceremony. File photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik is poised to issue an updated health order for the city at 5:00 p.m. Friday.

The order, referred to as Phase 4.1 of the Moving Milwaukee Forward Safely COVID-19 plan, includes some basic things like updating the city’s health order to match the Common Council-created mask mandate. But it also includes much larger changes, one of which could drastically reduce the amount of indoor dining and drinking in the city.

Under the new order, bars and restaurants need to have a city-approved safety plan by the end of the day on September 15th to “continue serving patrons indoors without capacity limits.” Safety plans were introduced as a way to allow restaurants to get to maximum capacity. As of last week only two businesses, Hawthorne Coffee Roasters and Zilli’s Hospitality, had approved safety plans according to the health department, but more plans were under review. The city declined to release the plans, citing confidentiality.

What would the capacity limit be? Currently it’s 50 percent. Kowalik indicated it could be zero after September 15th. A workshop for bar and restaurant owners is scheduled for 2 p.m. on August 6th.

“Once that date hits, you’re not going to be able to serve indoors unless you have that approved plan,” Kowalik said in a media briefing on Tuesday.

Phase 4.1 also appears to resolve another issue by allowing schools to reopen at 50 percent capacity with an approved safety plan. “A checklist for plans based on State and CDC school reopening guidance will be available at milwaukee.gov/mmfs by the end of next week,” said the department in a press release.

Schools, including colleges and universities, had publicly challenged the city’s prevention of in-person education under phase four, saying it deviated from earlier guidance. Kowalik, last week, said the confusion was an accident and Phase 4.1 would provide a pathway forward. Milwaukee Public Schools, the largest school system in the city, will start the school year virtually.

Gyms and athletic centers may operate with the lesser of the following three restrictions, 50 percent of total occupancy, one person for every 30 square feet or 250 people. That is unchanged from phase four, but the new order clarifies that gyms and athletic centers are required to comply with the mask mandate unless social distancing can be maintained and “mask wearing would cause difficulty breathing.”

On the city’s five gating criteria it currently has two “green” status items, testing and care capacity, while it is “yellow” on tracing response time, the number of new cases (“no significant trend) and the supply of personal protective equipment at hospitals (8 to 28 days for the majority of hospitals). The color ratings remain unchanged from last week.

Kowalik issued the phase four order on June 26th.

Milwaukee County, driven by the city proper, continues to have the largest COVID-19 outbreak in Wisconsin on a per capita and total number basis.

A full copy of Order 4.1 can be found on Urban Milwaukee.

Free Masks

The city is distributing free face masks at its three health centers.

  • Keenan Health Center, 3200 N. 36th St. – Monday-Friday 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
  • Northwest Health Center, 7630 W. Mill Rd. – Monday-Friday 8 a.m. – 1 p.m.
  • Southside Health Center, 1639 S. 23rd St. – Monday-Friday 8 a.m. – 1 p.m.

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