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Milwaukee eases restrictions on restaurants, sporting events and care facilities in new health order

Milwaukee Stock Photos
Justin Barney

The City of Milwaukee has announced a new health order relaxing some restrictions on bars and restaurants, sporting events and long-term care facilities, another sign of the city's improving Covid-19 situation.

The new Phase 6 order goes into effect on Friday, March 19, and replaces Order 4.4, which went into effect in early February and eased limits on gatherings amid encouraging signs in the city's Covid-19 numbers.

Under the new Phase 6 order, patrons will no longer be required to sit at restaurants and bars, some of which will see an increase in capacity. Capacity has also been increased at sporting events, and visitors are no longer restricted at long-term care facilities.

In a statement, Milwaukee Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson stressed that Covid-19 is still a threat to the city, but said the changes reflected a declining percentage of positive Covid-19 test results.

The full announcement is below; the complete order is posted here.

The City of Milwaukee announcement

Significant changes in the current public health order will go into effect Friday, March 19th, changes that relax some restrictions in the previous order. The new Public Health Order Phase 6 supersedes Order #4.4 which was in place for the past six weeks.

“The Phase 6 order reflects several COVID-19 trends including the reduced presence of the disease in Milwaukee and the lower percentage of positive COVID-19 test results,” Milwaukee Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson said. “While we are taking a step forward, we are doing that cautiously because COVID-19 is still a dangerous threat in our city.”

Some of the noteworthy changes in the new public health order include:

  • Restaurants and bars will see an increase in possible capacity and an easing of the restrictions on movement of patrons inside the establishment. While seating must be available and encouraged, it is no longer required unless a patron is eating or drinking.
  • Museums can be open with capacity limits and protective measures including masking.
  • Sporting events and recreational activities are now permitted to have up to six spectators per event participant with a limit of 750 fans indoors or 1,000 fans outdoors as long as physical distancing can be accommodated. An approved safety plan can allow larger crowds.
  • The order no longer restricts visitors to long-term care facilities.

It is important to note that general provisions regarding safe business practices and protective measures remain in place. That includes masking, social distancing, surface cleaning, and policies to restrict employees who have been exposed to the disease or show COVID-19 symptoms. The Milwaukee Health Department will continue to enforce the order, and citations with potentially large fines will be issued for order violations.
The full order is available online at

The Health Department has revised the gating criteria used to establish the level of restrictions in the city’s public health order. The criteria were unchanged since they were first put in place almost ten months ago. They formerly included things such as hospital bed usage, contact tracing, and personal protective equipment availability. The criteria are being updated and simplified to include measures such as the number of cases per 100,000 people and vaccination rates.