CITY OF MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee's more stringent COVID-19 health order lapsed as scheduled Friday, allowing bars and restaurants to operate with higher capacity limits and sports teams to play without approved safety plans requiring regular coronavirus testing.
Order #4.3, which required a 50 percent capacity limit at bars and restaurants that have had their safety plans approved by the city, expired Jan. 15, as planned. That revision went into effect on Dec. 3, in anticipation of soaring COVID-19 cases over the holidays.
With Milwaukee's COVID-19 order reverting back to Order #4.2 on Friday, bars and restaurants with approved COVID-19 plans can now operate at 100 percent capacity. School and club sports teams are also no longer ordered to have plans approved by the city requiring routine testing.
Bars and restaurants without a safety plan approved by the city must continue with a 25 percent capacity. Capacity limits for those bars and restaurants were not affected in Order #4.3.
The city has approved 802 safety plans for bars and restaurants in the city, according to the city health department.
Reason for reverting to Order 4.2
While the revised 4.3 order was expected to expire on Jan. 15, Milwaukee health officials explained in a statement Friday that there is also a sense of optimism in the fight against COVID-19.
The City of Milwaukee Health Department says that for the first time since October, none of the five gating metrics in the Moving Milwaukee Forward Safely plan are in the red category right now.
Of those five metrics, the percentage of positive coronavirus tests improved to 9.7 percent in the city, elevating that metric to green. The other four criteria remain in the yellow category.
Meantime, Milwaukee's central vaccination hub at the Wisconsin Center opened this week. Already hundreds of vaccinations have been provided to frontline medical workers and first responders. The health department says the operation is running smoothly so far, and efforts to vaccinate those in need are expected to only accelerate from here on out.
Acting Commissioner Marlaina Jackson put the news this way:
“This week’s developments, including the opening of the Wisconsin Center vaccination site, have brought a sense of optimism in our efforts to crush COVID. But along with that optimism, we must remember COVID19 remains a life-threatening danger in Milwaukee. For our neighbors, our family members, and for ourselves, we all must continue to wear masks in public, keep six feet away from non-household members, and avoid group settings where COVID-19 can be spread.”
The health department, in its statement Friday, also cautioned that there remains " significant, ongoing concern" regarding the spread of COVID-19 in the city. We are not over the hurdle yet.
Also on Friday, Gov. Tony Evers announced that Wisconsin is launching a mobile coronavirus vaccination program next week to be operated by the Wisconsin National Guard and health officials.
Gov. Evers says nine mobile labs will be dispatched across the state starting on Tuesday, Jan. 19. That is also the same day which the statewide mask mandate is set to expire. Evers also said on Friday that he will be extending that mask mandate for another two months.