City of Milwaukee Health Department
Press Release

The City of Milwaukee Moves to Phase 3 of COVID-19 Orders


By - Jun 5th, 2020 04:03 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 that utilizes data-driven gating criteria that align with federal and state guidance. This plan outlines the measures needed at this point in time for the City of Milwaukee based on the latest science. Milwaukee has made steady progress in reducing the impact of COVID-19 but we still have a long way to go. We will continue to focus on the importance of continuation and resumption of businesses and activities for all sectors of our economy.

As previously stated, our City’s advancement through the phases is driven by our Five Key Indicators and Gating Criteria:

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. There have been some challenges in measuring cases. Due to delays in lab reports and processing of cases into our state’s surveillance system (Wisconsin Electronic Disease Surveillance System or WEDSS), we calculated that it is necessary to omit the last 5 days to account for these factors. NOTE: This 5 day adjustment has not been updated to account for the recent delays in case processing due to the volume of cases via the community testing initiative (currently 10-14 days delayed). We will continue to reassess these lags in reporting and coordinate with the state and county partners to make adjustments over time.

Current Status – YELLOW—No significant trend- 0.764 as of 6/5. Increased from RED last week.

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

According to WEDSS, last week’s data showed a range of 230 and 470 tests per day. Although we knew the community testing initiatives were in place and 300-2000 people were tested daily since the start of the north and south side testing sites went live on 5/12, WEDSS did not reflect these numbers. We investigated this delay and realized there was a 10-14 day lag in reporting of test results to the system. We adjusted for the current delay and included these unduplicated testing numbers into our daily counts. The range is now 740 to 1619 per day.

When Order 2 was issued, we selected an ultimate testing goal of >2,400 tests based on Milwaukee County’s goal of 4,000 tests per day. Since then, we know that the testing capacity has increased to at least 4,000 per day not including the community testing initiatives. Tests also includes asymptomatic and symptomatic testing options as well as PCR- nasal and throat swab tests and serological or antibody blood tests.

According to updated data about feasibility of testing measures and % of population, we determined that the testing goal needed to be revised to over 2,000 for green and 1,999- 1,200 for yellow, less than 1,200 is red.

Although the new north side community testing site (Barack Obama High School) was selected and went live on Monday 6/1, testing numbers have been low at both sites. We attribute this to the racial justice and police brutality demonstrations that began last week. Also, the perception of the WI National Guard conducting the community testing may be leading to decreased utilization. We will continue to monitor the efficacy of these sites but we would like to continue to encourage the community, especially those that have engaged in protests and demonstrations that may have increased their risk of exposure to COVID-19 to get tested. Please visit our website for more information on testing locations: or call 2-1-1.

Current Status – In progress but estimated YELLOW as of 6/5 (average is 1120 daily). Increased from RED last week.

Care: The percentage of patients in hospitals with COVID-19 and hospital capacity to handle COVID-19 patients. Minimum requirement to move forward 95-99% not in crisis care AND 10-20% of hospital patients are COVID

Current Status – YELLOW—per Milwaukee County COVID-19 Map as of 6/5 (average is 10%). No change since last week.

Safety: Adequate PPE available for healthcare personnel, long-term care facilities, and first responders. This includes masks, gowns, and gloves.

Minimum requirement to move forward 8-28 days of all PPE supply for majority of hospitals.

Current Status – YELLOW—per Milwaukee County COVID-19 Map as of 6/5. No change since last week.

Tracing: This measure is defined as the ability to count, trace, and monitor COVID-19 cases and outbreaks by MHD.

Due to multiple feasibility challenges, the MHD has updated this measure to account for the high volume of cases and our increased contact tracing workforce (now at 170 staff). The previous measure focused on aiming to contact all cases within 24 hours of receipt via WEDSS. Due to technical issues with WEDSS, this measure is not a true reflection of our progress. We have updated this measure to our staff’s ability to successfully contact COVID positive patients within 3 contact attempts upon receipt. A 7-day average is used. 100-95% is green, 94-50% is yellow, <49% and under is red.

Current Status – YELLOW as of 6/5 (78% success). Increased from RED last week.

As we move into Phase 3 and beyond, businesses and activities will be allowed to resume in a measured manner in conjunction with evidence and consistent execution of Physical Distancing and Protective Measure Requirements and Safe Business Practices. There are a variety of resources for businesses by sector that are available online (please see below). The City of Milwaukee will also provide a webinar series to business owners and operators with sector specific guidance in the coming weeks. This will be posted on our orders website On May 16th, the first webinar was held for salons and barbershops in partnership with Barbicide; there were 900 attendees.

This order is for all establishments within the City of Milwaukee limits. Order 3 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: o 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 Excursions – Must be the lesser of the three: 1) 25% 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 – 50% capacity
  • Faith based gatherings – Must be the lesser of the three: 1) 25% of the total occupancy of the location, 2) one person for every 30 square feet or 3) 250 people.
  • Garage Sales, Rummage and Yard Sales – Must be the lesser of the three: 1) 25% of the total occupancy of the location, 2) one person for every 30 square feet or 3) 250 people.
  • Gatherings in Homes or Public Venues – Must be the lesser of the three: 1) 25% 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 3 and beyond. Safety is our top concern.
  • Gyms and Athletic Centers – Must be the lesser of the three: 1) 25% of the total occupancy of the location, 2) one person for every 30 square feet or 3) 250 people.
  • Hotels/Motels – 50 % capacity; The pool, hot tubs and exercise facilities are limited to the lesser of: 1) 25% of the total occupancy of the location, 2) one person for every 30 square feet or 3) 250 people.
  • Libraries – Must be the lesser of the three: 1) 25% of the total occupancy of the location, 2) one person for every 30 square feet or 3) 250 people.
  • Places of amusement – Must be the lesser of the three: 1) 25% 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 – 25% capacity
  • Salons/Spas – 1 client per service provider
  • Stores – 50% capacity o Youth Summer Programs – 50% 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 o Promote and conduct hand hygiene with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as frequently as possible or using hand sanitizer o 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 o 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 3 due to equity concerns regarding the challenges that either may cause for individuals because of disabilities and/or shortages

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


Our COVID-19 response goal is to prevent further death and disability during this pandemic. We understand that these public health orders have been challenging and have impacted all of us Milwaukeeans, but they are necessary so we may exercise caution as we reopen the city. We have heard from many concerned business owners and residents that support our ability to stay the course and continue to put their health and the health of their families first, especially our most vulnerable. It is our jobs as public health professionals to do just that, use data and science to drive our decisions. At this time, the disease is still spreading at an increasing rate across our country. We will need everyone to do their part and cooperate to slow the spread of COVID19. We would like to reiterate that COVID-19 did not disappear when the Supreme Court ruling eliminated the State’s Safer at Home order. Several areas where the state has fully reopened are seeing significant increases in COVID-19 illness and they are being faced with difficult decisions to issue new local orders and shuttering businesses that have active outbreaks. The MHD is committed to moving us forward with your best interests and safety at mind and heart. We need to stride forward with confidence. Please Stay Safe Milwaukee.

Please check our website for information and updates:

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