Covid cases, hospitalizations continue to rise in Milwaukee, sparking consideration of tighter restrictions

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) – A rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations is pushing city leaders to consider a return to tighter restrictions for businesses.

The upward trend is believed to be accelerated by the spread of the more contagious and severe B117 variant of the virus, first detected and identified in the United Kingdom.

“Our trends continue to gradually rise and we’ve passed 5-percent positivity at 5.3-percent,” said Dr. Ben Weston, director of medical services for the county’s Office of Emergency Management. “We now have 76 people hospitalized with COVID in the county, up more than 50-percent from just a few weeks ago.”

The numbers are sparking concern among leaders and forcing the consideration of putting back in place stronger capacity limits at restaurants and bars that do not have a safety plan submitted and approved by the city.

“We’re still concerned about the rise in numbers that we have been seeing,” Mayor Tom Barrett said in a video conference Thursday. “We’ll review our public order next week. Again, we are troubled by what we’re seeing in the increase in the percentage of people testing positive and we want to make sure we stay ahead of this pandemic.”

The Wisconsin Restaurant Association told CBS 58 a reversal to tougher restrictions is something many businesses cannot afford.

“Moving backwards at this time would be a severe disappointment for the industry,” WRA Executive Vice President Susan Quam told CBS 58 in an interview. Quam said there’s little evidence restaurants and bars are the main sources of spread in Milwaukee and businesses have adhered to strict protocols and have had success with that.

On top of that, the industry is not positioned to quickly switch to reduced capacity.

“They’re gearing up right now,” Quam said. “They’re staffing up, they’re buying food, they’re putting product in place and they’re getting ready to serve those customers, and to take a step back would be a hard financial hit.”

Mayor Barrett was also asked why the city moved ahead with allowing tailgating at American Family Field for Brewers’ home games if cases were trending upwards. The mayor said the city was satisfied with the team’s safety plan which included reduced capacity and spacing, allowing for a reduced risk of COVID spread.

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