Milwaukee mask mandate return, mayor 'not ruling out'

Milwaukee public health officials said Tuesday, Aug. 10 that COVID-19 numbers are trending in the wrong direction. 

Disease transmission in the city of Milwaukee is considered "extreme" by the health department's gating metrics and positivity remains high while vaccinations stagnate. County-wide, there is an average of nearly 270 cases per day.

City leaders said while the focus needs to be on vaccinations, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said another mask mandate is not being ruled out.

"It’s a very fluid situation, we’re continuing to watch the numbers. But I really don’t want us to take the focus off getting people vaccinated," Barrett said. "We’re going to continue to push that, but I am certainly not ruling out having masks come back."

Wisconsin now ranks as the fourth-worst state in the U.S. for 14-day trends in both COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Milwaukee County isn't faring much better, averaging 268 new cases and two deaths per day.

"The county’s seeing a 13-fold increase in cases over the month and a five-fold increase in hospitalizations," said Dr. Ben Weston with the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management.

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While not near the levels seen through fall and winter 2020, before vaccines were available, Weston said those who are unvaccinated should take note.

"We see that the vaccine is not only our path toward improved health, as a community, but the path forward to participation in the community," said Weston.

So far, a little more than 50% of Milwaukee residents ages 16 and older have been fully vaccinated; 56% have at least one dose.

"Our vaccinations, unfortunately, continue to be somewhat stagnant," Barrett said.

Barrett said he has been in talks with the city attorney's office, as well as with Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic, who heads the city's Public Safety and Health Committee, about bringing masks back. It is an idea he thinks is absolutely good, especially in places where there are a lot of people.

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