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City Of Milwaukee ‘Cautiously’ Relaxes Some Gathering Limits

Lauren Sigfusson
A sign in downtown Milwaukee encourages people to social distance.

The City of Milwaukee is relaxing some parts of its coronavirus health order, as infection rates decline. The new health order goes into effect Friday. It allows gatherings of up to 250 people, with masking and social distancing. The past order restricted gatherings to just 25 people.

The city is also removing COVID-19 testing requirements for sports teams, and allowing a limited number of spectators at sporting events.

In a news briefing Tuesday, interim Health Commissioner Marlaina Jackson said the city is taking a cautious approach to scaling back restrictions as COVID numbers improve.

“Please know that while these changes are loosening up, if you will, we look at our gating criteria every week to make sure our trends are going in the right direction,” Jackson said. “And we are making these decisions very cautiously, very aware, and very purposeful, that at any time, our gating criteria — which right now are very positive — could change.”

Last week, Milwaukee’s average COVID positivity rate was 8%, and there was no significant upward or downward trend in case numbers.

Jackson responded to news that the Milwaukee Bucks are planning for 25% percent fan capacity at Fiserv Forum.

“The Bucks and Milwaukee Health Department have been meeting regularly to talk about their plan — they have submitted a plan to the Milwaukee Health Department,” Jackson said. “So we are working with them to do our best to make sure we have some fans at some point moving forward.”

As Milwaukee gradually relaxes restrictions, health officials are keeping an eye out for more contagious coronavirus strains.

“It is foreseeable that if we allow these new strains, particularly the ones from South Africa and Brazil, to take hold among a large portion of our population, we could see a significant spike in disease — potentially far greater than we’ve seen yet — due to the variants’ transmissibility as well as its ability to evade previous immunity,” said Dr. Ben Weston, Director of Medical Services for the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management.

Weston said these new strains make COVID vaccination even more urgent. But right now, Wisconsin’s immunization efforts are hamstrung by limited vaccine supply.

Emily has been reporting on Milwaukee-area education for WUWM since 2018.
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