'Better than it was:' Racine health officials discuss next steps of COVID-19 reopening plan

RACINE -- As Racine surpasses 1,500 COVID-19 cases, the city's board of health met virtually on Tuesday, July 14 to review the next steps of its reopening plan, after entering its second phase last week.

"Our numbers have gone up slightly from the confirmed totals," said Dottie-Kay Bowersox, Racine public health administrator.

COVID-19 testing in Racine

"I'm just glad everyone in the city is making data-driven decisions and I appreciate the leadership of everyone in the health department," Racine Alderwoman Melissa Lemke said.

As of Friday, July 10 -- after a series of revisions -- Racine entered new territory in its reopening plan, moving into Phase 2.

"Mass gathering increase from 25 to 100 people," Bowersox said.

"Safer Racine" reopening plan

In addition to allowing larger mass gatherings, recreational facilities -- like fitness centers -- can now operate at 50% capacity, up from 25%. Places of worship, museums and movie theaters also now have a 50% capacity limit as long as social distancing measures are followed.

Long-term care facilities should follow Wisconsin Department of Health Services and CDC guidelines as part of Phase 2; outside visitors and group activities are no longer banned as an original public health plan had called for.

In the meantime, testing remained steady. On Monday, July 13, 486 people were tested at Festival Hall; a Wisconsin National Guard testing team will be in place there through Thursday, July 16.

While cases aren't slowing, local health experts say they are optimistic.

"The number of hospitalized COVID patients are quite a bit down from a month or so ago," Dr. John Brennan with Ascension Medical Group said. "It's a lot better than it was."

The next evaluation and potential revisions to the "Safer Racine" ordinance can be expected on July 31.