City of Milwaukee Health Department
Press Release

The City of Milwaukee Moves Forward into Phase 4 of its COVID-19 Orders


By - Jun 26th, 2020 04:17 pm

MILWAUKEE – On May 15, 2020, the City of Milwaukee Health Department issued a public health and safety order ‘Moving Milwaukee Forward.’ This order uses a measured, phased approach based on data and science which aligns with federal and state guidance. This plan outlines the slow reopening of the City of Milwaukee which has made steady progress in reducing the impact of COVID-19. We will continue to focus on the importance of continuation and resumption of businesses and activities for all sectors of our economy while keeping our community safe.

Five Key Indicators and Gating Criteria drive our City’s advancement through the phases. The data has been evaluated and the criteria has been met to move to Phase 4 which will take effect at 12:01 am on Wednesday, July 1st.  We will remain in this phase for a minimum of 14 days, which is the incubation period of COVID-19.

Cases: Measures how much COVID-19 is in our community and its impact.

As case totals can change dramatically by the day, and averages include outliers, we elected to use a statistical approach called Linear Regression to measure our progress. This statistic uses an industry standard of p<0.05 for statistical significance; this enables us to report the statistic with confidence or accuracy. The positivity rate, which assesses if our testing strategy is on point to find enough cases, is evaluated as well.

Current Status – YELLOW—No Significant trend for cases (0.10, P=0.358) or positivity rate (7.8%) as of 6/25. Declined from green last week.

Testing: Measured as the ability for residents who have symptoms of COVID-19 to access a lab test.

MHD strongly encourages regular testing for essential worker, those that may be at increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 through gathering with others outside of their household, and those that are symptomatic. Access to testing continues to increase in our area. Community testing sites are still available on the north and south sides of Milwaukee:  Barack Obama High School – Custer Stadium (4300 Fairmount Ave.) and UMOS (2710 S. Chase Ave).  While we continue to monitor the efficacy of these sites and develop alternatives, we would like to continue to encourage the community, especially those that may have increased their risk of exposure to COVID-19 while engaging in protests and demonstrations to get tested. Please visit our website for more information on COVID-19 symptoms and testing locations: or call 2-1-1.

Current Status – YELLOW (average is 928 daily up from 517 last week but positivity rate is now 7.8%). No change from last week.

Care: The percentage of patients in hospitals with COVID-19 and hospital capacity to handle COVID-19 patients. This represents that 100% of hospitals in the Greater Milwaukee area are not in crisis and <10% of hospital patients are COVID+

Current Status – GREENper Milwaukee County COVID-19 Map as of 6/25.  Remained steady since last week. Hospitalization was at approximately 6%.

Safety: Adequate PPE available for healthcare personnel, long-term care facilities, and first responders.  This includes masks, gowns, and gloves. This represents that the majority of hospitals in the Greater Milwaukee area have 8-28 days of all PPE on hand.

Current Status – YELLOWper Milwaukee County COVID-19 Map  as of 6/25. Declined from green last week.

Tracing:  This measure is defined as the ability to count, trace, and monitor COVID-19 cases and outbreaks by MHD. The MHD successfully reached city residents within 3 contact attempts. The average time to make the first contact attempt is 1.4 days.

Current Status – YELLOW as of 6/25 (improved from 78% last week to 83% this week). No change since last week.

While in Phase 4, most businesses and activities can continue but on a larger scale while abiding by Physical Distancing, Protective Measure Requirements, and Safe Business Practices. The MHD has developed protocols that outline the necessary COVID-19 safety measures required in order for a restaurant or bar operate without a capacity limit safely, “The Risk Assessment Tool for Expanding Capacity in Restaurants and Bars.” The purpose of this tool is to assist the MHD while reviewing an establishment’s COVID-19 Safety Plan. The assessment tool is to be completed by the operator and submitted along with their COVID-19 Safety Plan. Electronic submission is in development, until that is finalized, documents can be sent to for approval.

The email subject line should read: COVID SAFETY PLAN: insert business name and address.

Plans will be reviewed in the order they have been received. Approval time may take several days. Once approved, the operator will receive a certificate/seal demonstrating plan approval and will be able to operate safely without a capacity limit.

Safety plan documents will be available in Spanish and Hmong languages on our website as soon as they are completed. If an operator needs assistance in translation please reach out to: for support.

As with all COVID-19 pandemic orders, the MHD is anticipating voluntary compliance and will take an educational approach. If an operator is found to be in non-compliance of ANY of the Moving Milwaukee Forward Orders, there will be a consultation, inspection, education prior to the last resort which is citation and possibly arrest. The MHD has citation powers while the Milwaukee Police Department has citation and arrest powers.

There are a variety of resources for businesses by sector that are available online (please see below). The City of Milwaukee has and will continue to provide a webinar series to business owners and operators with sector specific guidance which is posted on our website

This order is for all establishments within the City of Milwaukee limits. Phase 4 includes significant changes for a variety of sectors. Please note, capacity refers to building occupancy. Business owners and operators have the right to remain closed until we advance through the phases and formally conclude our COVID-19 response efforts:

    • Beaches – All individuals and pets shall comply with Physical Distancing and Protective Measure Requirements. Team and contact sports on public beaches remain prohibited.
    • Chartered Fishing ExcursionsMust be the lesser of the three: 1) 50% of the total occupancy of the location, 2) one person for every 30 square feet or 3) 250 people.
    • Child Care Settings including Youth Programs – 75% capacity
    • Faith based gatheringsMust be the lesser of the three: 1) 50% of the total occupancy of the location, 2) one person for every 30 square feet or 3) 250 people.
    • Garage Sales, Rummage and Yard SalesMust be the lesser of the three: 1) 50% of the total occupancy of the location, 2) one person for every 30 square feet or 3) 250 people.
    • Gatherings in Homes or Public VenuesMust be the lesser of the three: 1) 50% of the total occupancy of the location, 2) one person for every 30 square feet or 3) 250 people. NOTE- the City of Milwaukee including the MHD and Department of Public Works as well as Milwaukee County Parks has the right to deny permits based on active outbreaks of COVID-19 in our community. The top census tracks for COVID-19 cases are evaluated weekly and will be used during Phase 4 and beyond. Safety is our top concern.
    • Gyms and Athletic Centers – Must be the lesser of the three: 1) 50% of the total occupancy of the location, 2) one person for every 30 square feet or 3) 250 people.
    • Hotels/Motels – 50% capacity; Pools, hot tubs, and exercise facilities are limited to the lesser of: 1) 50% of the total occupancy of the location, 2) one person for every 30 square feet or 3) 250 people.
    • LibrariesMust be the lesser of the three: 1) 50% of the total occupancy of the location, 2) one person for every 30 square feet or 3) 250 people.
    • Places of amusementMust be the lesser of the three: 1) 50% of the total occupancy of the location, 2) one person for every 30 square feet or 3) 250 people.
    • Retail Establishments – 50% capacity
    • Restaurants/Bars – 50% capacity *ability to operate without a capacity limit with a COVID- 19 Safety Plan approved by the health department.
    • Salons/Spas – 1 client per service provider
    • Stores  – 75% capacity
    • Youth Summer Programs – 75% capacity

The following Physical Distancing and Protective Measure Requirements are required for all individuals on the premises (staff and patrons):

    • Maintain 6 feet distance between people/patrons
    • Promote and conduct hand hygiene with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as frequently as possible or using hand sanitizer
    • Promote covering of coughs or sneezes (into the sleeve or elbow or tissue not hands)
    • Regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces and sharing cleaning protocols with staff and patrons;
    • Promote non-contact forms of greetings- no handshakes or hugs
    • Strongly recommend the use of a mask or cloth face covering. Businesses are allowed to require this as a policy to provide service. We recommend provision of single use masks/mouth coverings for staff and patrons.

Note: the use of masks or cloth face coverings is strongly recommended but shall not be required Citywide for Order 4 due to equity concerns regarding the challenges that either may cause for individuals because of disabilities and/or shortages. The only exception for requirement will be for operators of businesses with COVID-19 safety plans approved by MHD. 

The order also states that establishments must follow all other public health recommendations issued by State of Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Milwaukee County Department of Health & Human Services and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and adopt policies to prevent workers from entering the premises if they display respiratory symptoms or have had contact with a person with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19.

Additional resources for business owners and operators:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Interim Guidance for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)—Includes sector specific information

Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Commerce

Coronavirus Guidance for Businesses during the Pandemic

Wisconsin Department of Health Services—Includes information about employer-based outbreaks

COVID-19: Businesses, Employers, and Workers

Wisconsin Department of Trade and Consumer Protection

Resources for reopening/expanding services while reducing the risk of COVID-19:

Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation

COVID-19 Business Resources

Wisconsin Restaurant Association

COVID-19 Restaurant Resources

Please visit our websites for information and updates:

Mentioned in This Press Release

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