Responsibly Reopening South Milwaukee

It’s May 22, 2020. South Milwaukee and 17 other suburban Milwaukee County communities are now reopened, amid the pandemic. 

And my message hasn’t changed from what we shared earlier in the week

I recognize the impact the health orders have had on our residents, business owners and others, and I hope lifting this order will allow for the beginning of a return to normalcy for all of us. I believe we will reopen responsibly, following proper protocols, safety measures and best practices to ensure customer and worker safety and restore confidence. The decision by the Supreme Court did not end the pandemic, nor does the end of this order. This is not over. We need to learn to live with this disease safely, and we will, together.

I want to emphasize that last word. Together.

The last few weeks have been some of the ugliest in my time in elected office, with so much hatred, anger and vitriol aimed at local leaders, public health officials and others who are doing what they they think is right, on behalf of the community, in unprecedented times.

I hope we can move beyond this, as we enter this new phase. We need unity, not division, if we are going to reopen safely. 

That is why I am proud to see so many of our local businesses going above and beyond to take measures to keep everyone safe — measures that will lead to increased customer confidence, and increased business, for those who do it right. Places like Moran’s Pub. Sorce Martial Arts. The Tap Room. Ferch’s Beachside. CM Salons. And many, many more, which you can track on my Shop Local South Milwaukee Facebook page

I spoke to another prominent local business owner less than two weeks ago — it feels like two years ago with how quickly things have changed since then — and he was asking for clarity around a reopening plan in South Milwaukee. 

He well understands the gravity of the public health crisis we find ourselves in, and why governments have taken the measures they have to keep people “Safer at Home.” He understands the need to flatten the curve, and the dangers that reopening the city, county, state and country too quickly could bring.

He knows the actions we have taken so far have made a difference — and without them the pandemic toll would have been (and could still be) catastrophic. He knows how important it is to listen to health experts and act backed by science and data. 

But it’s understandably more complicated than that for him — and countless others like him. Like many, he has seen his business significantly impacted by the pandemic, with lost revenue and layoffs. He worries about his people, and wants to get them back to work. He also recognizes the broader toll this has taken on society, the impact record unemployment and months of isolation and shutdowns could have and are having: bankruptcies, broken families, substance abuse, depression, suicide. 

In our conversation, he wanted a light at the end of the tunnel for him, his family and his employees. He wanted hope. 

He wanted to know there is a plan in place that provides a reasonable, responsible and safe approach to reopening, one that puts public health and science first, while also reflecting the impacts orders have had on businesses like his. Both can be achieved at the same time, and they are in the new guidance.

Even without an order, there is a strategy in place that provides stringent yet attainable milestones and benchmarks for a safe, phased return to some semblance of normalcy.

I ask that we follow that guidance. For the safety of all of us. 

Thankfully, there are also professionals working every day to help: the South Milwaukee and St. Francis Health Department. 

 I’m so proud of this team, and know their work in addressing the pandemic is far from over. You could argue it’s just beginning, as they continue to try and stay ahead of the virus and prevent a second spike in cases. As Health Administrator Jackie Ove said in her letter accompanying the announcement about ending the order … 

The threat of COVID-19 is still very much alive in South Milwaukee and St. Francis, and throughout Southeastern Wisconsin. The South Milwaukee/St. Francis Health Department will continue to investigate COVID-19 disease in our community, with a focus on aggressive testing, case identification, and contact tracing. We will continue to monitor the data and to communicate with you all as we work closely with business colleagues and community members to adhere to safe practices and to spot and contain any outbreaks.

It is up to each of us to play our part in protecting ourselves, our families, our customers, and our community moving forward. I am confident that we are all up to the challenge.

So am I. Stay safe and healthy, South Milwaukee. 

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