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Wisconsin COVID-19 cases increase as Milwaukee prepares for phase 4 reopen

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- After a general decline in cases over the past month, Wisconsin saw a comparatively bad week for COVID-19 test results last week.

State cases peaked for the week at 539 on Saturday, June 27, and the state saw its highest rate of positive tests (7.1%) in more than a month on Sunday, June 28.

The increase in cases comes as Milwaukee is slated to enter phase 4 of its reopening plan on Wednesday, July 1. Bars and restaurants will be able to open at 50% capacity, as opposed to 25% like they can now.

Marquette University public health professor Lisa Grabert said the recent uptick is in line with most of the country.

“More people are moving about across the country because there has been more of a relaxation of some of the more restrictive social distancing requirements,” Grabert said.

Governors in Florida and Texas, which saw larger increases than Wisconsin, elected to close down bars and restaurants last week.

That’s not an option in Wisconsin after a Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling said Gov. Tony Evers did not have the authority to make those decisions statewide.

“Unfortunately right now the governor can’t do that with respect to COVID-19,” State Rep Daniel Riemer, D-Milwaukee, said.

The choice is now in the hands of state lawmakers. Some Democrats, like Riemer, want to remain flexible and act according to new developments. Sen Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, sent this statement to CBS 58 on increasing restrictions:

"I don't support shuttering the state's economy again or mandating masks. The governor has previously said that he doesn't think there will be a need for more statewide disruption and I agree with that. It's clear from the actions of Milwaukee and Madison that the responses will be regional. Bars and restaurants should follow the safe practices put forward by the WEDC to ensure that they can maintain proper social distancing."

Riemer wants legislative leadership to have a more open mind.

“What Senator Fitzgerald did putting out a particular statement saying 'this is where I stand and I’m not going to change that position', is a terrible idea. You have to be open to new solutions when you’re faced with new facts.”

Grabert says Wisconsin is middle of the road when it comes to state coronavirus rates.

And absent government restrictions, it’s up to people to wash their hands, wear masks and social distance.

“As long as people try to do those kinds of things, we should not see a snowball effect even with the relaxation of social distancing.”

Fitzgerald says the issue needs to be handled at the local level, but a judge in Racine struck down that city’s local stay at home order earlier this month.

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