The Battle For New City Mask Mandate
As COVID-19 cases surge, teachers union and 11 other groups demand restored mandate, which many businesses oppose.
In a joint statement, the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA), Leaders Igniting Transformation (LIT), Black Leaders Organizing for Communities (BLOC), Youth Empowered in the Struggle (YES), Parents for Public Schools of Milwaukee, Schools and Communities United, Wisconsin Working Families Party, Milwaukee Area Service and Hospitality Workers Organization, SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin, Voces de la Frontera, Citizen Action of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals call on Barrett and Johnson to immediately issue a new health order and reinstate the city’s indoor masking requirement.
The citywide mask mandate expired alongside Milwaukee’s health order on June 1. At the time, new cases of the disease were falling and the vaccination rate was expected to steadily expand. Instead, the case burden has spiked.
On July 9 there had been 9.8 new cases per 100,000 residents in the prior week, by Aug. 12 it was up to 230.1 cases. As of Tuesday, it hit 323.1 cases per 100,000 residents, a level not seen since January. Hospitalizations, a lagging indicator, are on an upward trend as well, matching a level last seen in February.
The number of cases in children is a key driver in the spike according to a Milwaukee County epidemiological report. Since late July the percentage of new cases occurring in children younger than 12 years old has grown from 20% to 33%.
“While we must all work to continue vaccination efforts, universal indoor masking and physical distancing are proven methods to control spread. COVID-19 infections are affecting children at much higher rates than ever before and children under 12 still cannot be vaccinated. Poor and working-class communities are much harder hit by the current surge and historic inequities have been highlighted throughout this pandemic,” wrote the co-signers.
On Aug. 12 a health department spokesperson said the department was monitoring the situation, but was encouraged by a week-over-week downward trend in cases. Since that point, the case burden has grown 40%. A number of employers, including the city, county and MPS, have since adopted vaccination requirements for employees. MPS has a self-imposed mask requirement for everyone in its buildings.
“Inaction by our City’s government is unacceptable, especially in light of this disproportionate impact,” wrote the co-signers of the new statement. “This city’s government does not exist simply to respond to the demands of the business lobby and the wealthy.”
“We are experiencing a pandemic of the unvaccinated. While breakthrough cases of vaccinated individuals can still occur, we know the COVID-19 vaccine provides effective protection against spreading the virus, as well as serious illness, hospitalization, and death,” she said in a statement. “It’s time for the community to come together and encourage all residents 12 years of age and older to receive their vaccine.” The commissioner said the best way to keep students safe is to make sure that those around them are vaccinated.
“Universal masking is one layer of protection, and the Milwaukee Health Department is supportive of all schools, including MPS, who implemented masking requirements. We continue to strongly advise all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a mask when in public, indoor spaces as a mitigation measure,” she added.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people, including those already vaccinated, wear masks indoors in communities where the disease is spreading at a “substantial” or “high” rate. Milwaukee not only meets that threshold, but exceeds it.
- MHD Release: Milwaukee Health Department Launches COVID-19 Wastewater Testing Dashboard - City of Milwaukee Health Department - Jan 23rd, 2024
- Milwaukee County Announces New Policies Related to COVID-19 Pandemic - County Executive David Crowley - May 9th, 2023
- DHS Details End of Emergency COVID-19 Response - Wisconsin Department of Health Services - Apr 26th, 2023
- Milwaukee Health Department Announces Upcoming Changes to COVID-19 Services - City of Milwaukee Health Department - Mar 17th, 2023
- Fitzgerald Applauds Passage of COVID-19 Origin Act - U.S. Rep. Scott Fitzgerald - Mar 10th, 2023
- DHS Expands Free COVID-19 Testing Program - Wisconsin Department of Health Services - Feb 10th, 2023
- MKE County: COVID-19 Hospitalizations Rising - Graham Kilmer - Jan 16th, 2023
- Not Enough Getting Bivalent Booster Shots, State Health Officials Warn - Gaby Vinick - Dec 26th, 2022
- Nearly All Wisconsinites Age 6 Months and Older Now Eligible for Updated COVID-19 Vaccine - Wisconsin Department of Health Services - Dec 15th, 2022
- City of Milwaukee Bi-Weekly COVID-19 Update - City of Milwaukee Health Department - Dec 9th, 2022
Read more about Coronavirus Pandemic here