Milwaukee mayor not saying whether restrictions will be added back for businesses, bars, restaurants

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The disturbing number of COVID-19 cases and deaths has Milwaukee city leaders raising concerns. They're now considering taking the city backwards and adding on restrictions.

In the city of Milwaukee, one in 10 people getting tested are testing positive. That is one of two red flags spelling trouble for businesses and city health leaders.

The Milwaukee Health Department's Moving Milwaukee Forward Safely Plan has five key COVID-19 indicators: cases, testing, care, personal protective equipment and contact tracing.

Marlaina Jackson, Milwaukee's interim commissioner of health, said on Tuesday, Oct. 20, that the health department had decided that when one of the key indicators moved from yellow or green back to red, the department would re-evaluate the city's safety plan.

As of Tuesday, two indicators are now red: cases and testing.

"So over the next few days, that is exactly what we're going to do. We're going to go back, look at our order, see what adjustments we can make if any and then we'll be sharing that with you as soon as it's complete," Jackson said.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said he's very concerned about the virus conditions in his city and the entire state.

"We're seeing the positivity rate above 10 percent, and that is a real, real negative indicator of just how prevalent this pandemic is in the state right now," Barrett said.

Sources confirmed to CBS 58 there were conversations Wednesday between the health department and restaurant owners about possible changes to the city’s plan.

But Barrett would not say Wednesday whether more restrictions will return for businesses, particularly bars and restaurants.

"We're in conversations right now with health officials to see what steps are appropriate," he said.

Steve Baas, senior vice president of governmental affairs for the Metropolitan Association of Commerce, said the health department has been responsive to business' concerns, but he urged caution as they looked to change the restrictions.

"The key here is individuals acting responsibly independent of government mandates. I think we get more cynicism when government tries to strictly mandate behavior without a connection to the actual risk," Baas said.

He said he also hopes any changes they make are "logical" and based on science and data about where the virus is spreading.

"I think the real challenge for the health department is going to be coming up with policies that make sense from a public health standpoint," Baas said.

Jackson said she hopes to release any revisions to the COVID-19 safety plan by the end of the week.

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