Graham Kilmer

Milwaukee Loosens COVID-19 Health Restrictions

Business and public gathering capacities increased, some restrictions lifted.

By - Mar 18th, 2021 02:24 pm
Bars and restaurants in Westown. File photo by Carl Baehr.

Bars and restaurants in Westown. File photo by Carl Baehr.

The Milwaukee Health Department is updating its COVID-19 public health order Friday with changes to restrictions on bars, restaurants and sporting events among other things.

The new order, Moving Milwaukee Forward Safely Phase Six, will make changes to the existing set of rules that have been in place for the past six weeks. Key indicators of disease in the community have been trending in a direction suggesting lower levels of disease for several weeks, and the latest health order reflects this.

“While we are taking a step forward, we are doing that cautiously because COVID-19 is still a dangerous threat in our city,” said Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson in the announcement for the new order.

Notably, the order will increase the capacity at bars and restaurants and eliminate the rule that all patrons in the establishment must be sitting, Museums without approved plans can open with capacity limits. All sporting events can have people in attendance again, with limits, and visitation will be allowed at long-term care facilities.

Along with the updates to the order’s limits on public gatherings, the gating criteria — used to determine when the city moves on from a level of restrictions — will be substantially updated for the first time since the original order was issued.

The health department has eliminated hospital bed usage, contact tracing and the availability of personal protective equipment from its criteria. The gating criteria now simply has the rate of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, the testing positivity rate and the adult vaccination rate.

It includes target levels for each metric to determine whether to loosen or tighten restrictions.

The current levels of COVD-19 held against the new gating criteria reflect moderate transmission of COVID-19. While many restrictions are being lifted, the city’s mask ordinance is still in effect.

Under the new health order bars and restaurants without safety plans can now operate at 50%, and the requirement that all diners must have a place to sit, limiting movement has been lifted. The latter restriction was put in place partially to prohibit dance floors where social distancing couldn’t be maintained.

Religious establishments and event venues can now have gatherings at 75% capacity or one person per 30 square feet, whichever is lower.

Museums can now operate at 100% capacity or have 1,000 visitors. If a museum’s maximum capacity is higher than 1,000 it will have to work with the city to establish a safety plan.

Hotels, youth programs and childcare settings can all now operate at 100% capacity. Salons and spas can have three clients per service provider and retail can operate at any capacity that still allows for social distancing.

Gyms can now operate at 75% capacity, or one person per 30 square feet or a max capacity of 750 people.

Read the full health order here. Read the new gating criteria here.

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Categories: Health

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