Milwaukee Removing Most COVID-19 Restrictions on June 15th
Health order expected to be reduced to a focus on masks.
The City of Milwaukee will substantially loosen restrictions on public gatherings and business operations as a result of declining COVID-19 case numbers.
“We have consistently, decision after decision after decision, followed the science and that’s what we are going to do continue today,” said Mayor Tom Barrett during a Thursday morning press conference.
“We are moving from restrictions to recommendations,” said Milwaukee Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson. She said the city has seen a “pretty significant” decline in COVID-19 cases and positive test results. The commissioner said the decline is expected to continue, particularly if more people continue to get vaccinated.
An indoor mask requirement is the only condition that Johnson highlighted that will still be in force.
“We want people to be vaccinated and we want to be able to move forward,” said Johnson. “We are at a critical point in time. We are really encouraging people to get vaccinated.”
“I want to be clear this does not mean the pandemic is over,” said Barrett.
Nor does it mean penalties associated with the current health order are suspended. Businesses and organizations can still receive fines of up to $5,000 per offense for violating capacity, mask and social distancing restrictions. One bar received $26,500 in citations before the city closed it last month.
Johnson said businesses with approved safety plans would be encouraged to still follow them, even after the restrictions are removed. Increasing case numbers could cause the city to move backward in its health order.
“I know this has been difficult for everyone,” said Barrett, noting both the loss of life and economic hardship.
“Here in Milwaukee and here in Wisconsin we have done a good job,” he said. But since last May, Milwaukee has been one of the only communities in the state to maintain a health order after a statewide order was struck down.
But the new order, coming in a month, will not be phase seven.
“We are actually going to remove our phases from the website starting June 15th,” said Johnson.
“We have reached an important stage in the public health response to the pandemic,” said Johnson. “I don’t think of this next step as going back to normal, but instead moving forward in our city’s recovery.”
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