COVID-19 Cluster Growing on City’s South Side
Hispanic community being hard hit by fast growing cluster.
A growing cluster of confirmed COVID-19 cases is emerging on the city’s south side.
Of the approximately 1,500 COVID-19 cases in the city, 160 are now in the 53215 ZIP code. It’s the fastest-growing cluster of cases in the city according to Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik.
The ZIP code runs from S. 6th St. on the east to S. 43rd St. on the west. The southern border is W. Morgan Ave., with the northern border formed from W. Becher St. east of S. 27th St. and W. Canal St. west of S. 27th St.
“We started seeing this surge honestly at the beginning of this week,” said Kowalik on Friday afternoon.
Approximately 60,000 people live in the ZIP code according to census data and over 65 percent identify as Hispanic or Latinx. The area includes the city’s Silver City, Burnham Park, Layton Park, Southgate, Polonia and Morgandale neighborhoods.
She said the Milwaukee Health Department was working to provide additional guidance to those in the area not just in English, but also in Spanish. “We understand that there are various cultures within the Spanish speaking community,” said Kowalik. “We can’t just treat it as a cookie-cutter approach.”
“Of course there have been enforcement strategies underway and those have been ramped up more recently,” said Kowalik of social distancing measures under state regulations. She thanked Alderman Jose G. Perez, who represents much of the area, for his support in identifying areas where enforcement and education is needed. Ald. Scott Spiker and Alderwoman-elect JoCasta Zamarripa also represent portions of the area on the Common Council.
“This is about prevention or about slowing down the infection,” said Kowalik.
The cases don’t stop at the borders of 53215. The biggest number of cases in a single census tract on the south side is a tract bordered by W. Scott St., W. Lapham Blvd., S. 9th St. and S. Cesar Chavez Dr. There are 23 confirmed cases in the tract. Over 80 percent of the residents of the tract are Hispanic according to the 2010 census.
Did Easter or in-person voting play a role? “It takes time to conduct the investigation, to connect the dots,” said Kowalik. She said the investigation is on-going and a formal report would be available in the future.
Approximately 17 percent of the 2,055 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the city are in people identifying as Hispanic or Latinx. But a bigger group, 21 percent have no race reported. She said the department was still working to identify the race of those individuals. “We do know there are concerns about revealing one’s race and ethnicity,” said Kowalik.
The public can see the data through Milwaukee County’s interactive COVID-19 dashboard.
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