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Milwaukee stuck in Phase 4 as number of positive COVID-19 cases increases

NOW: Milwaukee stuck in Phase 4 as number of positive COVID-19 cases increases

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The City of Milwaukee entered Phase 4 Wednesday, July 1. The health department is allowing businesses to continue reopening amid the pandemic.

But that’s only if we meet criteria to do so -- this time it’s hit a roadblock.

After being able to safely move forward for the past couple weeks, this week’s assessment revealed one of the indicators regressed.

Officials say even though steady progress has been made, we still have a long way to go.

“We’re nervous. You know, we want to know if the business is there for downtown,” said Omar Sheikh, co-owner of Carnevor restaurant, a steakhouse on Milwaukee Street.

He says even though the city moved into Phase 4 Wednesday, they’re holding off until August 1.

“Just to be frank, at 50% we can’t pay our bills. We just can’t,” Sheikh said.

Restaurants can operate at half their capacity, but progress made has been halted.

The City of Milwaukee’s advancement through the phases is driven by five key indicators and gating criteria.

Those include the number of cases reported, access to COVID testing, percentage of patients in hospitals with the virus, access to adequate personal protective equipment and the ability for contact tracing.

These measures are reassessed every Friday, but today one of those five indicators regressed to red because a significant number of positive cases were reported -- declining from yellow last week.

“I’m very concerned,” said Mayor Tom Barrett. “I’m very concerned about that.” 

Positive testing rates increased from 7.8% last week to 12.2% this week. 

That means Phase 4 won’t be reassessed again until July 17.

“If the science and the indicators indicate we have to go in a different direction, we’re going to go in a different direction.” 

Barbershops have also had to change how they operate.

“We can all work, we just have to make sure we’re 6 feet apart.” said Gaulien Smith, owner of Gee’s Clippers. “We can all take care of our clients, we just have to make sure they’re by appointment only.” 

Smith says even though they’re cleaning and sanitizing more, it’s business as usual, and they don’t mind having to operate under Phase 4 as long as they need to in order to keep everyone healthy and safe. 

“I have no problem with us staying at Phase 4 until there’s a vaccine out because of the severity of this virus,” said Smith. 

These phases are reassessed every 14 days -- equivalent to one incubation period.

The health department says they will be monitoring these capacities, saying the orders aren’t just guidance, they’re requirements.

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