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Masks and Distancing: Democratic National Convention outlines safety plan for Milwaukee event

Everyone attending the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee next month will have to wear a face mask, consent to daily testing for COVID-19, fill out questionnaires and maintain a physical distance from others.

Organizers of the convention released details of the coronavirus safety plan on July 27, three weeks before the August 17 start of the four-day event. The convention has been scaled down from original plans and now will be mostly online with only a few hundred people gathered at the Wisconsin Center in downtown Milwaukee.

“Ensuring the safety and well-being of everyone involved with the convention is our top priority,” said convention spokeswoman Katie Peters. “After consultation with public health officials, the Democratic National Convention Committee will implement robust health and safety protocols that will govern the convention’s in-person activities and keep attendees safe before and during the convention.”

Attendees will have to self-isolated for a minimum of 72 hours before departing for Milwaukee or when first entering the convention’s main venue if they’re already in the city. Once at the convention, attendees must fill out a daily questionnaire indicating that they are not experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and have not had contact with anyone who is infected.

All convention guests, law enforcement, media, and staff must agree to daily COVID-19 testing, either at the Wisconsin Center or another offsite location. They must also agree to follow any other “reasonable restrictions that convention organizers may impose based on changing health conditions.”

While presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and everyone else will be required to wear a mask once inside, anyone making a speech will be allowed to remove theirs. The podium will be 20 feet from other people. Organizers are also encouraging attendees to wear a face shield or goggles to protect their eyes.

Organizers are also recommending that attendees “avoid bars, restaurants, and other locations where social distancing is not possible or not practiced.” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett called the safety protocols “thoughtful and thorough.”

“While it is important to protect every person attending the convention, it is also important to protect the entire Milwaukee community,” Barrett said. “These protocols establish reasonable requirements in order to prevent additional COVID-19 infections in Milwaukee.”

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have spiked in Wisconsin since mid-June, with roughly a third of the state’s 49,417 cases in Milwaukee County and nearly half of the state’s 893 deaths there. Following a city ordinance already in place for a couple weeks, Governor Tony Evers issued an emergency health order on July 30 requiring masks to be worn when in a building that is open to the public or outside in a public space, and within 6 feet of any other person who is not a household or family member.

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Gage Skidmore and Kayle Kaupanger

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