Racine Public Health Department Allows School Buildings to Open After Jan. 15th

City of Racine – Today, Dottie-Kay Bowersox, the City of Racine Public Health Administrator, released a revised version of the City’s “Safer Racine” ordinance which will allow schools to reopen buildings and some venues to increase capacity limits.  

Updates to the ordinance include: 

  • All school buildings will be allowed to reopen after 11:59pm on January 15th. All schools must have submitted and have a Health Department approved reopening plan 
  • Bars, restaurants, indoor recreational facilities, and licensed swimming pools revert to phase 4 of “Safer Racine” and will be allowed to operate at 50% capacity as long as 6ft physical distancing can be maintained 
  • Retail establishments have capacity limits lifted 
  • All other details can be found at www.racinecoronavirus.org/reopening 

Things of note that will NOT change with the update of “Safer Racine” include: 

  • There is NO change to the high-risk recreational category within the ordinance, meaning that many school sports remain prohibited 
  • Mass gatherings remain capped at a maximum 50 individuals for special events at private venues 
  • Indoor and outdoor mass gatherings in public venues continue to remain closed 

Administrator Bowersox issued the following statement with the release of the updated ordinance: 

While the COVID-19 pandemic locally, as well as across the state, has slowed in terms of the daily case rate compared with pre-Thanksgiving levels, the number of individuals being tested daily has significantly decreased. This decrease in the overall testing rate may simply be serving to mask the true prevalence of disease within the community and the region.  

“While schools now have the option to return to in-person learning, many families and staff members are rightfully concerned about the possible transmission of COVID-19 in schools, and are thankful for the option of distance learning. With that in mind, we strongly encourage schools to offer, or continue to offer, an option for virtual or distance learning for your students and personnel. 

“Already in 2021, the Public Health Department has experienced a significant reduction in COVID-19 funding from the State of Wisconsin for disease investigation, contact tracing, and other related efforts, which has resulted in decreased staffing levels. In addition, this Department is preparing for the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine and implementing the vaccination efforts to immunize all members of this community. As a result, this Department has a decreased ability to respond to COVID-19 cases and outbreaks in schools. As such, the Public Health Department will closely monitor COVID-19 cases in schools, may choose to report out publicly the caseloads in buildings, and take additional preventative enforcement measures, as needed, up to and including closure of schools to prevent further community spread. 

“The changes to Safer Racine follow weeks of continued decline in the case rate within this jurisdiction and an improved status of hospital system capacities for the southeast region. The loosening of restrictions come with a few key considerations as we continue through the first part of 2021. 

“First, distribution of COVID-19 vaccines continue to be prioritized and are not openly available to the public at-large. The date for when the public will have access to vaccine is incredibly difficult to determine and unknown at this time. Therefore, all community members are strongly encouraged to adhere to all necessary COVID-19 precautions including the consistent/appropriate use of a face mask, physical/social distancing, and staying home when ill.  

“Second, no cost Wisconsin National Guard COVID-19 testing within the City has resumed and will again provide significant access and testing capacity. It is expected an increase in positive cases will occur since this testing has not be available in over a month. Individuals who are symptomatic and who have been identified as a close contact are encouraged to get tested. 

“Third, the recognition that this is an ever-changing virus as it spreads across the globe and has presented health officials with a concerning new variant (named B.1.1.7). First identified in the United Kingdom, this variant has presented within a few locales within the U.S. and continues to spread.  While data suggests it may be more contagious than other variants, its prevalence in Wisconsin and the potential impact on our community is still unknown. 

“These factors, inclusive of our existing measures, will weigh on the decision to maintain the loosened restrictions within Safer Racine Reopening Ordinance or tighten them in the future.” 

The Public Health Administrator is given the authority to make such modifications to the City of Racine ordinance known as Safer Racine by the City of Racine Common Council. The updated Safer Racine document can be found at www.racinecoronavirus.org. Questions about the ordinance can be directed to [email protected] or 262-636-9201.