Waukesha County Seeing Spike in COVID-19
Sheriff says he won't enforce the mask mandate.
Judi Redding has been a clerk at Discount Liquor in downtown Waukesha for nearly 30 years.
Redding says the normally busy store has been packed since the pandemic began five months ago. Over the last few weeks, more of her customers started wearing masks. She sees it as a sign of respect as the number of coronavirus cases continue to increase in Waukesha County.
Every day, when she rings up customers, she thanks those who are wearing a mask.
“I’m not going to stop wearing a mask until numbers go down,” Redding said. “It’s not a hoax. I have customers who come in here who are emergency room doctors, and they say people better start taking this serious.”
The coronavirus has moved across Wisconsin communities, first hitting urban areas in March and then working its way across the state.
Now the pandemic has reached places where residents didn’t think they had to worry as much, like suburban Waukesha County, outside Milwaukee.
New York Times data shows that in the last week, Waukesha County has seen some of the fastest growth in newly daily cases per capita.
On Monday, the county had 3,693 cases and 55 deaths.
Dr. Ben Weston, an associate professor of emergency medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin, says while Waukesha County is seeing more cases, it’s the number of tests coming back positive that is more telling.
“They’ve had days where they are over 16 percent positive,” Weston said. “It’s a little harder to tease out without knowing how much testing is being done those days, but nonetheless, 16 percent positive is… concerning.”
By comparison, the state average during this time was 9.6 percent positive, according to the state Department of Health Services.
Weston said the numbers in Waukesha County are especially alarming considering how they have changed since the pandemic has started. He said what’s happening in Waukesha County mirrors what is happening nationally.
During an interview Thursday, before the mask mandate was issued, Waukesha’s Republican County Executive Paul Farrow raised concerns about enforcement.
“We have to be mindful of our physical separation,” Farrow said. “And if you can’t be socially distant, then you should consider wearing a mask.”
But he later issued a statement saying many Waukesha County residents are concerned the mandate infringes on their personal freedoms. Waukesha County’s sheriff later joined dozens of other sheriffs across the state saying his agency would not enforce the mask mandate.
They don’t wear masks when they meet, but say they do when they go other places. Kurer says they trust each other.
“I expect that he respects his life and doesn’t go out gallivanting with no mask on,” Kurer said. “I mean, he’s more intelligent than that. We have families that we love too.”
Diners outside of Taylor’s People’s Park, a café in downtown Waukesha, were largely without masks Thursday evening except for Andy and Brienna Wagner. The Oconomowoc couple said they wear them for peace of mind.
“It seems to go in waves, where you see a lot of people with masks and then not a lot of people with masks. And then even when you go from county to county, it seems to differ a little bit,” Brienna Wagner said.
Waukesha County One Of The Latest Wisconsin Suburbs To Be Hit Hard With COVID-19 was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.
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