Milwaukee to ease COVID restrictions beginning June 15

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) – Gathering and capacity limits for businesses and events in the city will be lifted starting June 15, city leaders announced May 13.

“Beginning June 15, Milwaukee will transition out of Phase 6 and away from many of our mandated COVID restrictions,” Mayor Tom Barrett said in a video news conference.

The city has been in Phase 6 of reopening and the health department’s plan includes a final Phase 7, but city health leaders said they examined COVID data for the community and concluded it could forego the final phase and lift restrictions entirely.

“We looked at the data and did some math around, what if we continued the downward trend we’ve experienced over the last few weeks, what would that look like over the next 4-6 weeks,” health department Commissioner Kirsten Johnson said. “We’re very confident that come June 15 we’ll be in a really good place.”

City leaders are instead focusing efforts on getting more vaccine shots into arms.

“Vaccinations, vaccinations, vaccinations, vaccinations,” Barrett said. “We need to continue our vaccination efforts to reach this path of reopening.”

Businesses said the announcement was welcomed news, but safety remains a priority.

“We’re still going to use the discretion to the business,” Lauren Mitchem, a manager at Wicked Hop in the city’s Third Ward told CBS 58. “As long as our employees and our customers feel safe, then we have no problem moving forward.”

Theaters were among the most severely affected by restrictions in the pandemic. Leaders with the Pabst Theater Group said the June 15 date is helpful because it gives them time to prepare.

“We’re really glad that this guidance came out in advance so that we can get ready,” Pabst Theater Group Chief Operating Officer Matt Beringer said in an interview. “We can get our staff ready, we can plan in advance, we can do things, you know quite preferable to just turning the light switch overnight.”

The city’s initial announcement said indoor mask enforcement would continue past June 15, but officials said discussions would be ongoing following the CDC’s announcement on mask guidance Thursday afternoon.

Commissioner Johnson also said she does not anticipate the CDC’s announcement to impact or change the June 15 date to roll back restrictions. 

Watch the full announcement below.

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