Milwaukee COVID orders end, normal not back yet: officials

After nearly a year, Milwaukee's COVID-19 public health order and mask mandate are a thing of the past – starting the new month with a renewed sense of normalcy.

City leaders said they feel reassured in their decision to get rid of restrictions based on the decreasing level of transmission and the increasing number of vaccinations.

As leaders continue to encourage those who are on the fence to get the vaccine, they caution everyone: We're not ready to completely return to normal life just yet.

People walking in Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward

Efforts to combat COVID-19 are turning a corner. The city's lifting of pandemic-related restrictions leaves policies up to individual businesses and employers. 

"Now we’re in a new phase of recovery from the pandemic," Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said. "The city of Milwaukee will continue to support those businesses that are continuing to require masks inside their private establishments."

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Health officials said they feel confident in the decision due to a continued downward trend in disease activity.

"Our test positivity rate is 2.5% and the number of hospitalizations is the lowest they’ve been since we began to track data," said Milwaukee Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson. "As of today, 49.5% of Milwaukee adults have received their first vaccination."

The progress, experts say, points to the success of COVID-19 vaccinations. Still, certain demographics remain reluctant to get the shot.

COVID-19 vaccine

"I think those of us who are over 50 or over 60, you’re seeing really good compliance of all racial backgrounds. But at the younger ages, we’re not seeing as much, not seeing as many people stepping forward," Barrett said.

With more than 200 pop-up vaccination clinics planned through the summer, leaders are reminding community members not to let their guard down as the hard work is far from over.

"Every day or two, we’ll get a report from the medical examiner about another death," said Barrett. "As much as we want to enjoy the summertime, and it’s a glorious day today, the fact of the matter is, we have an obligation to do everything we can to end this pandemic."

Johnson said she would only consider re-imposing restrictions if there were a sustained increase, meaning more than a week's time, in cases. 

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