By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Like in many places throughout the world, when coronavirus first came to Milwaukee, residents were told to practice social distancing. The term being used worldwide to encourage people to stay six feet apart, practice good hygiene and quarantine if necessary. But as the pandemic continues, the City of Milwaukee issued a new response.
Earlier this week, Milwaukee residents were issued a “stay at home” order. This order was also issued on a state level by Gov. Tony Evers. The order asks that residents stay in their homes unless necessary. A necessity would be visiting an essential business such as a grocery store or a hardware store.
Currently Milwaukee has 393 cases of confirmed coronavirus also known as COVID-19.
Mayor Tom Barrett and Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik held a virtual press conference regarding the city’s decision to issue a “stay at home” order.
Barrett said it is important to note that the order is not a “shelter in place” order, which would force residents to stay wherever they are at the time of the order be it their house or the grocery store for example. Rather, a “stay at home” order’s goal is to create a safer community and is not meant to alarm anyone.
A few weeks ago, Milwaukee didn’t have any cases and now it has over 200, Barrett said.
“It’s a community wide problem so we have created a local stay at home order,” Barrett said.
He explained that Milwaukee looked towards the state’s order and other states such as Illinois for guidance on its order. Barrett added that the goal isn’t to cause panic.
“What we are trying to do is send the message about how serious this problem is,” Barrett said. “This is a life and death issue.”
People are still allowed to utilize grocery stores and other places for essentials. And residents can still go outside for exercise if they choose.
Barrett noted that if the pandemic gets out of control in Milwaukee, it could face the same issues plaguing other places such as New York and Italy, that is the lack of hospital bed space and ventilators or respirators.
It’s not about the individual it is about the entire community, he said. Even if someone feels strong, he or she should not put others in harms way. It takes a community effort to normalize the “stay at home” order in order to slow down the spread and get things back to normal.
Kowalik also spoke during the conference. She said the goal of public health is to protect lives, prevent deaths and prevent unnecessary disruptions.
So far in Milwaukee, seven people have died due to COVID-19.
“Releasing an order is extremely important,” Kowalik said. “It’s a tool that I have as a health authority for the City of Milwaukee.”
It went from one case to over a hundred cases, she said. Staying at home is the best way to prevent this disease and the spread of it at this time, Kowalik said.
She added that while some people have expressed anxiety over the situation, others are acting business as normal, which is not ok. Kowalik said that according to Dr. Ben Weston, the medical director for Milwaukee County and EMS, the cases are increasing at about 50 cases a day and for every 50 cases there’s one death.
“When we move into a “stay at home” order it is one of the most effective ways to slow this down,” Kowalik said, adding that slowing it down also helps the healthcare system.
The goal is to flatten the curve, she said, so that the healthcare system doesn’t experience a surge of patients. She said that the “stay at home” order is not a lockdown.
Kowalik said as part of the order, Milwaukee is working with partners to create options for people who don’t have stable housing or who may not live in a safe environment. She added that the city is working to create outreach programs specifically for the Northside, which has seen a majority of the cases.
There are very basic things that can be done to prevent the spread of disease and staying at home is one of them, she said.