Milwaukee Health Dept. offers assessment of Phase 4 reopening: 'A long way to go'

MILWAUKEE -- The City of Milwaukee Health Department offered an update on Friday, July 3 on its Phase 4 plan for reopening businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials say while Milwaukee has made steady progress in reducing the impact of COVID-19, it still has a long way to go.

Milwaukee's positive coronavirus cases have climbed from 7.8 percent to 12.2 percent -- and that's just days after the city moved to Phase 4 of its reopening. Under this new phase, restaurants and retailers are able to operate with 50 percent capacity.

"Phase 4 has gone into effect. Obviously, I am watching very carefully what is going on in the southern states and the western states," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.


The area where the city seems to be performing best is the percentage of COVID-19 patients that are being hospitalized. City officials say Milwaukee is in the green -- hospitals are not in crisis and hospitalizations are at 5 percent. Milwaukee is also doing well with contact tracing. They are able to reach someone within 1.4 days.


As the holiday nears, health officials urge the public to practice social distancing.

Current statuses (as noted by news release)

Cases moved into the RED this week therefore, we will not reassess Phase 4 until Friday, July 17th. If we regress to red for any indicator over the 14 day period, we will need to hold for another 7 days.

Cases: Measures how much COVID-19 is in our community and its impact.

As case totals can change dramatically by the day, and averages include outliers, we elected to use a statistical approach called Linear Regression to measure our progress. This statistic uses an industry standard of p<0.05 for statistical significance; this enables us to report the statistic with confidence or accuracy. The positivity rate, which assesses if our testing strategy is on point to find enough cases, is evaluated as well.

Current Status – RED—Statistically Significant positive slope trend for cases (0.53, P=0.007) or positivity rate (12.2%) as of 7/1. Declined from yellow last week.                                                                

Testing: Measured as the ability for residents who have symptoms of COVID-19 to access a lab test.

MHD strongly encourages regular testing for essential workers, those that may be at increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 through gathering with others outside of their household, and those that are symptomatic. Access to testing continues to increase in our area. Community testing sites are still available on the north and south sides of Milwaukee:  Barack Obama High School – Custer Stadium (4300 Fairmount Ave.) and UMOS (2710 S. Chase Ave). While we continue to monitor the efficacy of these sites and develop alternatives, we would like to continue to encourage the community, especially those that may have increased their risk of exposure to COVID-19 while engaging in protests and demonstrations to get tested. Please visit our website for more information on COVID-19 symptoms and testing locations: or call 2-1-1.

Current Status – YELLOW (average is 1682 daily up from 928 last week but positivity rate is now 12.2%). No change from last week.

Care: The percentage of patients in hospitals with COVID-19 and hospital capacity to handle COVID-19 patients. This represents that 100% of hospitals in the Greater Milwaukee area are not in crisis and <10% of hospital patients are COVID+

Current Status – GREENper Milwaukee County COVID-19 Mapas of 7/1.  Remained steady since last week. Hospitalization was at approximately 5%.

Safety: Adequate PPE available for healthcare personnel, long-term care facilities, and first responders.  This includes masks, gowns, and gloves. This represents that the majority of hospitals in the Greater Milwaukee area have 8-28 days of all PPE on hand.

Current Status – YELLOWper Milwaukee County COVID-19 Map  as of 6/7/1. Remained steady since last week.

Tracing:  This measure is defined as the ability to count, trace, and monitor COVID-19 cases and outbreaks by MHD. The MHD successfully reached city residents within 3 contact attempts. The average time to make the first contact attempt is 1.4 days.

Current Status – YELLOW as of 7/1 (improved from 82.9% last week to 83.3% this week). No significant change since last week.

While in Phase 4, most businesses and activities can continue but on a larger scale while abiding by Physical Distancing, Protective Measure Requirements, and Safe Business Practices. The MHD has developed protocols that outline the necessary COVID-19 safety measures required in order for a restaurant or bar operate without a capacity limit safely, “The Risk Assessment Tool for Expanding Capacity in Restaurants and Bars.” The purpose of this tool is to assist the MHD while reviewing an establishment’s COVID-19 Safety Plan. The assessment tool is to be completed by the operator and submitted along with their COVID-19 Safety Plan. Electronic submission is in development, until that is finalized, documents can be sent to for approval.