Riverside Theater marquee posts COVID information as county cases spike

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Tuesday, Milwaukee County health officials announced COVID cases and deaths are again spiking.

The seven-day average for cases is now the highest it's been since January of this year. The Pabst Theater Group is trying to share whatever critical health information it can, even right on the Riverside Theater marquee. It comes as more people are getting COVID, especially children.

Gary Witt is the president & CEO of the Pabst Theater Group. He says, "If it can help save one person from having to deal with the horrors that full-blown COVID is, then that's fantastic."

The theater group can reach its 400,000 email subscribers with a single click, but Witt says the symbolic marquee can be just as effective. Witt says the message is more important than financial gain. He says they need to lead the way, telling people there's a way out of the pandemic. "Sometimes it's more important to share that type of information than it is to tell people who's coming for the next show."

Throughout the area, officials and health leaders are trying to stop another wave of the virus from spreading. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says, "I don't like being in this category, but we remain in the extreme transmission category."

Milwaukee County is averaging four new deaths and 332 new cases every day. Last week there was an average of 237 new cases each day.

Hospitals are noticing the increase, though there is not a threat of overwhelming capacity right now. UW Health's Chief Quality Officer Dr. Jeff Pothof says, "I wouldn't say that it's easy. The hospital is full, and it takes intention to make that happen. But we know there are other health systems that maybe don't have the same level of resources."

Dr. Pothof is still optimistic. He thinks the current Delta surge will diminish by winter, and case numbers could be low enough by December so that vaccinated people can go about with few restrictions.

And more help could be on the way after Pfizer released encouraging data this week on a vaccine for children ages 5-11. Dr. Ben Weston, the chief health policy advisor for Milwaukee County, says, "This is welcome news to many parents of elementary school children where COVID is without a doubt, having a major impact through case rates as well as hospitalizations."

Witt acknowledged it seems as soon a message like the one on the marquee is made public, some people will make it political and lash out. But he says for anyone critical of their efforts, 10 supporters have their back.

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