Jeramey Jannene

Milwaukee Could Move To More Restrictive COVID-19 Health Order

City considering more restrictive options as positive case rate spikes to "red" level in city.

By - Oct 21st, 2020 06:36 pm
People wait in vehicles to be tested for COVID-19 at Miller Park. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

People wait in vehicles to be tested for COVID-19 at Miller Park. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The City of Milwaukee could go backward on its Moving Milwaukee Forward health order.

The potential move comes amidst record COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths across Wisconsin in the past 45 days. Milwaukee is no longer the center of the pandemic in Wisconsin, but that is due to a surge in cases elsewhere, not a reduction in Milwaukee.

Of the city’s stop-light-colored gating criteria, it has now entered red-light territory in two of five categories — cases and testing. “We now have two red indicators, which is unfortunately a first for our city,” said Mayor Tom Barrett during a press briefing Tuesday. “Our cases have begun to move upward, I won’t say tick upward, they’re moving upward.” The city’s positive case rate, the percentage of tests indicating a new case of the disease, has reached 10.8%.

The city is now seeing more new cases than at any point during the pandemic.

Without addressing specifics, Barrett and Interim Health Commissioner Marlaina Jackson said a potential change is being considered. Jackson said the city would review its options in the coming days. “At this point we are looking at the entire order, all of the groups and establishments that are impacted there, to see whatever we can do to stop that spread,” she said.

The city is currently in phase 4.1 of its order, which is now more complicated because of a new emergency order from the state. The state and local orders permit in-person education for schools and colleges, but indoor businesses without a city-approved health plan are required to adhere to the state’s 25% capacity limit. The city had previously increased its capacity limit from 25% to 50% as part of advancing phases.

Getting back to “yellow lights” would require the positive case rate to fall below 10% for testing and no statistically significant upward trend in cases. The city is in the yellow phase for personal protective equipment supply and tracing, and green for the percentage of hospitals not using crisis care. The gating criteria is a measure of how well the city is doing in slowing the spread as well as a measure of readiness in fighting an uptick, Jackson said. The criteria and city’s performance can be seen on the Milwaukee Health Department website.

“That 10% is really a red flag to say where we are in our ability to fight this virus,” said Jackson. The state as a whole currently has a positive case rate of approximately 20 percent.

Barrett on Wednesday said he didn’t have an announcement, but options were being discussed between his office, the health department and City Attorney’s office.

“I am concerned with some of what I have seen in bars,” said Barrett. Jackson said the city is enforcing its order on a complaint-based basis.

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