MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee businesses have been revisiting their mask and COVID-19 restrictions after the city's health order expired on Tuesday, lifting the city-imposed capacity restrictions and mask mandate.
The new guidelines say that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks. However, some businesses may still require them. City health officials encourage people who are not fully vaccinated to continue wearing face masks.
At the no-frills Brickyard Gym in Milwaukee, owner Ken Weber said he has been waiting for the day the city would lift its COVID restrictions.
"First of all, I was happy we were opened under the restrictions, that was fine, the numbers and also the masks. But now without the face masks, it changes. People don't have to call and ask what my rules are. It was nice taking the sign down today," Weber said.
While Weber made masks optional for people at Brickyard Gym, during our interview some people continued to wear them during their workout.
"I'm looking forward to this being totally over. I understand we're not out of the woods yet, but it's a good start," said Weber.
Over on the near west side, signs requiring face masks were still up at Jizzles Sandwich Shop after the health order expired.
"I'm happy for it. You don't know how hard it is to be in the kitchen like this all day," said Dante Lee, manager at Jizzles Sandwich Shop.
Lee said the owner has yet to make a definitive decision on masking and resuming indoor dining. The restaurant held off on indoor dining to allow social distancing.
"He's going to take time because we need to. We're still in a pandemic, and we need to make sure we protect ourselves and make sure we have the customers protected too," Lee said.
Milwaukee city officials said they will support businesses that choose to continue requiring face masks. They stressed that vaccinations are a proven tool in the fight against the pandemic and helped the community see significant drops in COVID-19 transmission and hospitalizations.
"We trust our businesses and community partners will continue to take appropriate measures to keep their staff and customers safe. We remind everyone to be respectful of safety protocols that may be asked of you," said Milwaukee's Commissioner of Health, Kirsten Johnson.
Johnson said if COVID-19 numbers head in the wrong direction for more than a week or two, the health department will look at reimposing restrictions.
For families with kids under 12 who cannot get vaccinated yet, Dr. Ben Weston with the county and the Medical College of Wisconsin advised it is generally safe for them to keep the masks off outdoors. But if the kids are somewhere where distancing is hard, they should keep the mask on.
When it comes to indoor settings, Dr. Weston said to avoid crowds and emphasized masking is still important for unvaccinated people despite the mandate being lifted.