'We are not there yet:' Milwaukee leaders push back city's COVID-19 reopening timeline

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said Friday, May 29 that he will not loosen the city's coronavirus restrictions -- yet. He and other local leaders hoped to move forward by Friday, but decided the community is not ready.

Tom Barrett

"As much as I would like to announce that we are going to have a full reopening, we are not there yet and this is a moment of frustration for me," Barrett said.

Announcing that the City of Milwaukee is not prepared to move forward with a plan to reopen dining rooms and other business spaces until more progress is made in the fight against COVID-19. There has been an increase of cases on Milwaukee's south side.

"My fervent hope today was that I could come in and say everything is back to normal. That life is good. That we've got this under control and that we can lift all restrictions," said Barrett. "Unfortunately, that is not where we are."

Before the city is ready, Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik says, it needs significantly more personal protective equipment (PPE) at hospitals, testing and contact tracing.

Jeanette Kowalik

"Looking at having an adequate supply of over 30 days," Kowalik said. "COVID-19 is spreading at an increased rate, so this is a time for us to continue to hold the line and not to fall back because again there is a number of individuals in our community that are vulnerable and they need our help."

The City of Milwaukee's system of tracking preparedness for reopening showed regression in five key categories this week -- three categories have "red" ratings, two have "yellow" -- much like Milwaukee County's system which also showed downgrades in health and safety.

"We of course, still are fervent believers in the social distancing, of the masks, particularly when you are out in public we think those measures are important as well as other measures to protect the public," Barrett said.

An estimate on when Milwaukee dining, bars and gathering spots will reopen again remains to-be-determined.