Milwaukee, Waukesha Counties Begin COVID-19 'Experiment'

May 15, 2020

“A live experiment.” 

That's what a local business leader says we're in after this week's state Supreme Court ruling throwing out Wisconsin's safer-at-home restrictions for the COVID-19 pandemic, and subsequent decisions by Milwaukee and Milwaukee County to maintain many limits. In contrast, Waukesha County says it's only issuing health recommendations for its businesses, not orders.

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Steve Baas, who's with the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, made the “experiment” comment during a briefing late Thursday. He referred to the road that divides much of Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties.

"This is going to be a live experiment going on here, in what the impact of removing the restrictions are. From an epidemiological standpoint, but also from an economic standpoint. You know, on the east side of 124th street, you're going to have restrictions in place that aren't there on the west side of 124th street. Mayfair Mall is looking at a different reality than Brookfield Square Mall is,” Baas said.

Balers bar in New Berlin, which is in Waukesha County, now allows indoor seating.
Credit Chuck Quirmbach

Wisconsin Department of Administration Secretary Joel Brennan is from the Milwaukee area. He says if the two counties are in an experiment, it's one based on an artificial boundary.

"The ability for the virus doesn’t end at one county line or one municipal boundary. And it's difficult to imagine a set of circumstances that having one set of rules on one side of the street is practicable or the safest and surest way for us to move forward,” Brennan told WUWM.

The Evers administration has criticized the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling. But moving on, Brennan says the state will continue trying to expand testing for COVID-19 and contact tracing of those who get the disease.

As of Thursday, this Milwaukee Starbucks only offered drive-thru service.
Credit Chuck Quirmbach

Medical College of Wisconsin President and CEO John Raymond says people on both sides of 124th street, and everywhere else, still need to be careful about the coronavirus.

"Let's, first of all, remember that COVID-19 is stealthy and virulent, and continues to live around us. We can't let our guard down," he says.

So, Raymond continues to recommend the COVID-19 basics: "Physical distancing. Face coverings. Hand washing and frequent cleanings."

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