MILWAUKEE - There will be volleyball played at the Wisconsin Center in downtown Milwaukee this coming weekend. This, after the Milwaukee Health Department approved a safety plan to allow the event -- the first non-governmental client in the building since the Democratic National Convention.
On March 6 and 7, the Wisconsin Juniors Volleyball Club will have two days of volleyball tournaments in the exhibit hall. Subsequent tournaments will take place the following three weekends of March hosted by the Badger Region Volleyball Association.
Marty Brooks, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Center District, issued the following statement in a news release:
"This is a major milestone and will give us a glimpse into the future of large gatherings. I’m proud of the hard work our team has put in to allow us to welcome youth sports back at the Wisconsin Center. From sanitation to security measures, our team is well-versed on all protocols in place, and we worked closely with the Milwaukee Health Department on this endeavor. Tournament participants and attendees should feel confident their health and safety are our number one priority."
A news release noted early on in the pandemic, the Wisconsin Center District established COVID-19 guidelines at each of its facilities to ensure the safety of visitors and employees with temperature checks upon entering, mask requirements, high-frequency air circulation, and sanitation between visitors. Additionally, each of the WCD’s buildings are GBAC STAR™ accredited, the gold standard for prepared facilities.
Excitement is brewing in Milwaukee as the Brewers and other large events return with limited capacity, but it comes with a warning from health officials.
The play at the Wisconsin Center will definitely feature plenty of bumps and spikes, and health officials hope the same doesn't happen to our COVID-19 metrics.
At face value, the data is encouraging. Milwaukee County COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths remain low, but the case number has hit a plateau, which, over the last year, has proven problematic.
"What we've seen each time this has occurred throughout the pandemic in our community, it's followed by an increase in disease burden," said Dr. Ben Weston, Medical College of Wisconsin.
That trend has Weston and other local leaders calling for vigilance, even as the Milwaukee Bucks, Brewers and weekend volleyball tournaments again welcome fans in Milwaukee.
"Just because we're seeing institutions reopen, that does not mean that this pandemic is over, so we must continue to wear masks and practice physical distancing to protect our neighbors, loved ones and ourselves," said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley.
A number they are encouraged by is vaccinations. Weston said Milwaukee County saw a 20% increase in administered shots week over a week at about 4,500 doses a day.
They hope that trend continues with a new county program introduced Thursday, March 4.
"Individuals ages 65 and older living in the 53204 and the 53206 ZIP codes are encouraged to register to be vaccinated at the Kosciuszko Community Center," said Crowley.
Crowley said the county, using social vulnerability data from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified about 6,000 residents in those Milwaukee ZIP codes to receive the vaccine -- a move he says will bring more equity to vaccine distribution.
"We are launching this program now to get more vaccine in our most vulnerable communities as quickly as possible," said Crowley.
The county can vaccinate about 1,000 people per week as part of the ZIP code program.
Wisconsin Center officials said Milwaukee Health Department vaccinations will not be impacted by volleyball this weekend.
Wisconsin Juniors is expected to bring about 4,000 attendees over the weekend and more than $1.8 million in estimated economic impact to the Milwaukee area. Badger Region has an estimated economic impact of $1.8 million its first week, $1.6 million the second week, and about $1.3 million its third week. Badger Region attendees will range from 3,000 to 4,000 attendees each weekend.