City leaders reflect on 1 year since COVID-19 hit Milwaukee, theaters went dark

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee city leaders reflected on a sad city milestone while hoping for better months ahead. One year ago, on March 13, 2020, COVID-19 hit Milwaukee.

"It was one year ago today that we had our first case of COVID-19 in the city of Milwaukee," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

Barrett pointed to the pandemic, job loss and the fight for social justice as reasons 2020 was historic.

"Without a doubt, this has been the most challenging year that we've had in the city in the state and in this nation," Barrett said.

He honored Saturday with a social media campaign in which he asked people to share stories using #HonoringMKEHeroes.

Gary Witt, CEO of the Pabst Theater Group, knows March 13 as the day theaters across the state went dark.

"A year ago today, we just finished four amazing Dave Chappelle shows. All I really wanted to do was sleep because I left it like 6:30 in the morning from a show that ended at midnight," Witt said. "Pretty much after that, the world just kind of changed forever."

The Pabst Theater Group is taking part in the "One Year Dark" social media campaign along with other venues across the country. 

"We were the very, very first businesses to close entirely and will very likely be the very last businesses to open entirely," Witt said.

The Milwaukee Health Department is set to unveil a new public health order on Thursday, March 18. The mayor said he hopes the city will be able to lessen some restrictions.

Barrett said he's proud COVID-19 cases and deaths are trending downward and the number of people vaccinated continues to increase. That gives Witt hope, too.

"I could say that we're more hopeful now that we have been anytime in the last year," Witt said.

He's looking forward to the day when people will be able to create memories again inside his theater.

"As we fought to survive this and my partner I basically lost everything that we've owned to get through this. When we come out of it ... we're going to be dragon slayers. We're ready to crush everything in our path," Witt said.

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