Here’s the latest update on COVID-19 in Milwaukee and the resources you need to combat it.
Officials offer advice on how to vote safely
Ben Weston, director of medical services for the Milwaukee County Department of Emergency Management, advises Election Day voters to follow COVID-19 protocols when they cast their ballots: Wear a mask. Watch your distance. And wash your hands before and after entering a polling place.
Weston encouraged voters to pick times of day when fewer people are likely to be at polling stations, such as mid-morning. He also encouraged voters to bring their own pens.
Claire Woodall-Vogg, executive director of the Milwaukee Election Commission, said over half of the county’s registered voters either requested an absentee ballot or voted early as of Tuesday. Woodall-Vogg said this could mean less congestion at the polls Tuesday.
Woodall-Vogg said the commission has hired 3,500 election workers to staff the city’s 173 polling places on Tuesday. Woodall-Vogg said many of the volunteers are younger and at a lower risk for COVID-19.
There will also be other safeguards at polling places, such as Plexiglass between poll workers and voters. Here are more tips on how you can cast your vote safely.
‘The curve is not flattening’
Hospitalizations in Milwaukee County reached 325 last week, nearly 100 more cases than the previous peak in April. The county is now seeing its “third surge” of COVID-19.
“Surge” is a term used by public health officials to identify times of uncontrolled disease spread. There have been three surges so far in Milwaukee County: one in April, one in July and the current surge that began in October.
Weston said that there has been an increase in demand for testing, and an increase in the percentage of positive tests. Weston called this a “bad combination that indicated very high disease activity in our community.”
“The curve is not flattening,” Weston said. “We’re not rounding any corner. We’re seeing a steady and steep upward trend in cases, hospitalizations, and tragically, deaths.”
Weston said there are hard days ahead and urged residents to continue to be mindful.
“Every individual decision, every gathering avoided certainly makes a difference,” Weston said.
County sees increased testing numbers
Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley said last week that there was a new surge in testing. The Miller Park testing site as well as the two community testing sites were at or near capacity on Oct. 26.
Demand for testing was so great on that date that people were turned away. Officials said 2,300 people were tested at Miller Park, roughly 300 more than the state capacity of 2,000 per day.
About 462 tests were conducted at the Northwest Side Health Center and 340 at the Southside Health Center.
“We understand that it’s frustrating to be turned away from a testing site, but please know that we share your frustration,” Crowley said.
Barrett said although the city has more testing capabilities than ever, the demand has increased dramatically with the third surge.
Interim Health Commissioner Marlaina Jackson also said leaders are working on providing weekend hours for the city-run testing sites, particularly at Miller Park.
Jackson urged people to visit the TestUpMKE site to find COVID-19 testing locations.
City issues new order to corral COVID-19 numbers
The Milwaukee Health Department issued a new order Thursday that limits public indoor gatherings to 10 people or fewer, not including employees. Public outdoor gatherings also are limited to 25 people or fewer, and religious and political gatherings are limited to 100 people at a time.
Bars and restaurants without a city-approved COVID-19 safety plan will also be limited to 25% capacity. All patrons will have to be seated unless they are arriving, departing or using the restroom. Dance floors will also be closed for the duration of the order.
School sports will also be limited to intra-squad or intra-school unless a safety plan is approved by the health department. Any approved safety plan would require testing every three days. Schools will also be monitored for safety and can continue with online instruction.
Grocery store capacity also will be limited to one person per 30 square feet of open floor space.
Jackson said the order was “not meant to be punitive,” adding officials understand the effect this will have on businesses and the families that rely on them.
“Our hope is that by updating this order, we get to a place where we can be fully open again,” Jackson said.
How you can help friends and loved ones who test positive
Where to get free masks
To obtain a free mask, residents can visit these sites:
- The Northwest Health Center, 7630 W. Mill Rd., is open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.
- The Southside Health Center, 1639 S. 23rd St., is open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.
NNS reporters also gathered a list of where to buy locally made masks if you’re looking to show some local business love when masking up.
Check the City of Milwaukee Health Department’s website for the most updated facts and answers to questions about the mask ordinance.
Resources to know
Look here for up-to-date statistics on COVID-19 in the county. More precautions on how to stay safe and information on COVID-19 can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.
Contact your health provider, call IMPACT 2-1-1 or take a look at the county’s testing site map to find a testing center near you. The free community testing sites at the Northwest Health Center, 7630 W. Mill Rd., and Southside Health Center, 1639 S. 23rd St., are now open and operating. Miller Park is also opening as a testing site effective Oct. 19.
For more information on testing, including how to identify symptoms and when you should get tested, visit TestUpMKE.com. Available in English, Spanish, Hmong, Burmese and Arabic.
Check out our continuing coronavirus coverage.
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