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Madison, Milwaukee Choose Local Pandemic Health Restrictions Over State’s

State Emergency Health Order Allows Local Municipalities To Have More Restrictive Measures

Cardboard cutouts of well-known figures are used to ensure spacing between patrons at Milwaukee Steakhouse at 6024 Bluemound Road. The city requires businesses to have written pandemic safety plans which require social distancing and thorough sanitization practices. In this photo, Brian Young Sr. poses next to a likeness of Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Photo courtesy of Brian Young Jr. 

Wisconsin’s two largest cities will continue to enforce existing local health orders designed to curb what Gov. Tony Evers described as an “uncontrolled” rise in COVID-19 cases.

Evers’ characterization of the pandemic came in a new order issued Tuesday which puts new capacity limits on businesses open to the public.

The order went into effect Thursday at 8 a.m., and is the most aggressive measure taken by the Evers administration so far as hospitalizations and deaths rise in the state.

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One day after the statewide order, Public Health Madison & Dane County indicated they would be continuing with their own local order.

Dane County’s restrictions allow most businesses open to the public, except for restaurants and bars, to operate at twice the level set in the statewide order, which is 25 percent capacity.

“What it does is sets a floor for communities to use and build some consistency across the state,” Janel Heinrich said of the statewide order. “We know that what’s in our emergency order requires all businesses to implement written hygiene, cleaning and protective measures, policies and procedures and requires training of employees. So, we will continue to follow our emergency order because of these more protective measures,” said Heinrich, director of Public Health Madison & Dane County. She spoke during an online city of Madison briefing Thursday.

Cardboard cutouts of well-known figures are used to ensure spacing between patrons at Milwaukee Steakhouse.
Cardboard cutouts of well-known figures are used to ensure spacing between patrons at Milwaukee Steakhouse. Owner Brian Young Jr. says customers make suggestions for the cutouts which are provided free to the steakhouse by Great Northern Paper in Racine. Photo courtesy of Brian Young Jr. 

Likewise, the city of Milwaukee will also continue enforcing its local health order, which has higher capacity limits for restaurants and bars than the state order.

The city health order, called Moving Milwaukee Forward Safely, requires restaurants and bars to submit an 80-point COVID-19 checklist to the Health Department to have in-person dining.

One of the businesses that submitted a written health plan to the city’s health department so it could operate without specific capacity restrictions is Milwaukee Steakhouse at 6024 W. Bluemound Road.

With table spacing and some bar stools removed to provide physical distancing, owner Brian Young Jr. said they can fit 65 customers compared to their normal capacity of 99 before the pandemic.

“While it’s not great, it’s necessary, and we should be able to keep (financially) afloat at that,” he said.

With the statewide order limiting capacity to 25 percent, he said the restaurant “definitely would have closed.”

These additional restrictions under the local order do more to prevent COVID-19 transmission than Gov. Evers’ emergency order, according to a release by the Milwaukee Health Department.

Evers’ emergency order does not restrict outdoor gatherings, where the state Department of Health Services said the risk of COVID-19 transmission was lower.

The order also doesn’t apply to indoor workplaces that aren’t open to the public, like a warehouse or manufacturing plant. The order ends Nov. 6.