COVID vaccines, returning summer events offer optimism

Has Milwaukee County turned the corner in the COVID-19 pandemic?

Local leaders said Thursday, May 6, that the community is headed in the right direction. With more children likely eligible for the vaccine next week and major summer events announcing their comeback, there are promising signs that life is returning to normal.

"I’m pleased that Summerfest announced its September lineup today and State Fair is moving forward in August," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

Five Milwaukee County senior centers are reopening, too.

"We want to offer our older adult population a safe place to socialize," Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve the Pfizer vaccine for kids ages 12 to 15 by early next week.

"We’re also working with MPS, and other schools to ensure it’s accessible to families and students," said Kirsten Johnson, Milwaukee health commissioner.

Still, work continues to reach those who are reluctant to get the vaccine or who don't have access to information about it. The Milwaukee Health Department and Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management (MCOEM) are now shifting their vaccination strategy.

"From mass sites, over to smaller, more local efforts and focused messaging," said Dr. Ben Weston with the MCOEM.

Among the ideas is a drive-thru site, tentatively scheduled for early June, that would include incentives.

"I don’t want to giveaway or overpromise on what the incentives are going to be for the drive-thru site, so I’m not able to share that yet," Johnson said.

Meanwhile, doctors say a new study from UW-Madison shows just how effective the vaccine is at preventing infection.

"An unvaccinated person is one thousand times more likely to get COVID than someone who is fully vaccinated. So to those who are unvaccinated and have not yet had COVID, you’re lucky. But this data shows, you’re also on borrowed time," said Weston.

The Milwaukee Health Department said it is working with Summerfest to ensure masks are worn and enforced throughout the festival and that physical distancing is possible where necessary.

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