County Executive Josh Schoemann wants to begin reopening businesses, churches, schools and other institutions in Washington County to full capacity - the largest step towards reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic so far announced in southeastern Wisconsin.
Schoemann wrote in a statement Thursday that he has directed the Washington and Ozaukee Public Health Department to assist in this reopening. The executive did not announce any specifics of this rollout in regard to capacity limits or other safeguards to limit the spread of the virus.
Efforts to vaccinate residents of Washington County are roughly the same as they are in Milwaukee County. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reports that about 21 percent of Washington County residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while almost 12 percent are completely vaccinated.
That's compared to about 20 percent partially vaccinated and 10 percent fully vaccinated in Milwaukee County.
Meanwhile, Washington County's seven-day average number of coronavirus cases is 8, according to the DHS. That's the lowest that number has been since July of last year.
County Executive Schoemann describes this push to reopen amid the pandemic as a "movement toward a full return to life as we have long known it, free from government restrictions and recommendations, and renewed in our commitment to fully embracing personal responsibility and individual liberty with love for our neighbor."
Schoemann argues that while the needs of public health "took on additional weight" on the onset of the pandemic, the picture has changed "as the vaccine and mitigation strategies force the virus to recede."
Schoemann writes that the county must recalibrate the needs to fully restore balance "with economic, mental, spiritual, and social health needs that have been exacerbated by COVID-19."
Schoemann acknowledges that the county health department will continue to provide testing and access to the vaccine.
The health department meanwhile will also provide recommendations to community members, businesses, civic and community organizations "who feel so compelled to seek such guidance," Schoemann writes.
A Washington County resident TMJ4 News talked to said the county was not ready to be fully reopened.
"I would say I strongly disagree," said Derrick Weiland. "Until we have more people vaccinated, I don’t think there’s any justification for that."
"It’s not for my own safety, it’s for everybody else around me," Weiland adds.