Alison Dirr, Milwaukee Journal Sentine
|Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (Photo: Colin Boyle / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)|
Milwaukee County’s suburban municipalities will move on to the next phase of reopening Friday, allowing all remaining businesses to open, even as the City of Milwaukee's stay-at-home order remains in effect.
Last week, the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down Gov. Tony Evers' stay-at-home order aimed at limiting the spread of coronavirus.
Shortly after that, the 18 suburban municipalities in Milwaukee County, followed by the City of Milwaukee, issued new local orders. The suburban orders expire at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday while Milwaukee's does not have an end date.
The orders from the municipalities and Milwaukee allow more businesses to reopen with limits. The businesses include hair salons, barbershops, nail salons and day spas.
Ann Christiansen, director of the North Shore Health Department, said during a virtual news conference Tuesday that suburban municipalities are finalizing guidelines for reopening.
She said businesses will be able to reopen but with guidelines on how to do so safely and under what conditions. Those include plans that allow for social distancing, disinfection and cleaning and other protections for employees and customers, she said.
Local health departments will be communicating the plan with businesses in their jurisdictions, she said.
Christiansen said the focus remains on a "phased" reopening to avoid overwhelming the health care system.
Milwaukee order still in place
Milwaukee officials are evaluating the city's next steps and remain "very concerned," Mayor Tom Barrett said Tuesday.
"We are not ready at this stage to simply say everything is back to normal for the simple reason that everything is not back to normal," he said. "Regardless of what the Supreme Court's decision is, regardless of what one jurisdiction or another jurisdiction does, the fact is that we are trying to follow the health care and the science as much as possible."
Barrett said he is particularly concerned about Milwaukee's African American and Latino communities, which have been disproportionately impacted by the virus. For instance, African Americans have accounted for nearly half of COVID-19 deaths in Milwaukee County, while making up about 27% of the county's population.
Barrett has not offered a timetable for reopening, aside from saying the decision will be based on consultations with health officials..
South Milwaukee Mayor Erik Brooks said the reality is the virus is not going away with reopening, which means the work of health departments will continue.
"In South Milwaukee and across the area, we ask our residents, our visitors, our business owners, others to continue to act responsibly, safely, consistent with federal, state and local guidelines for a safe reopening," he said.
Brooks said he hopes that lifting the order Friday will allow for a beginning of a return to normal, adding, "I'm certain we'll open responsibly."
He predicted that businesses that do this right and inspire customers' confidence will be rewarded.
"As we focus on moving from crisis to recovery to the next normal, we've been trying to balance the impact of health, safety, community and economy," said Timothy Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce.
He said employers are trying to reopen safely and thoughtfully.
The MMAC has developed a business tool kit in partnership with the Medical College of Wisconsin that gives employers health and safety best practices and links to resources for decontamination and personal protective equipment.
The key to moving forward, Sheehy said, is to build consumer and employee confidence.
"No matter how fast the community opens in terms of its regulatory capabilities, you're going to see employers adopt this on a much slower basis because they want to make sure that their workplaces are in a good position as they bring people back to work and they start to invite customers back," Sheehy said.