Milwaukee gets 500K N95 masks amid COVID omicron surge

Acting Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson announced on Friday night, Jan. 7 that the city has received 500,000 N95, high-quality masks for distribution.

Johnson, who had COVID-19 himself, indicated the masks were procured, in part, because of help from the state. 

The masks will be available to Milwaukee residents at two locations from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 8: 

  • Northwest Health Center: 7630 W. Mill Road
  • Southside Health Center: 1639 S. 23rd Street

Beginning Monday, Jan. 10, all three Milwaukee Health Department testing and vaccination sites and Milwaukee library locations will be distributing the high-quality masks during their normal hours.

Officials said the masks will be handed out in packs of five for a single adult, ten for a couple, and a pack of 20 for a family.

"I’ve learned over the course of the last week just how transmissible COVID-19, particularly the omicron variant is," Johnson said. "Masks are yet another tool.

"These higher quality masks do a better job of keeping COVID at bay and our residents should have access to that protection. I think that’s critically important, and I want to make sure we provide that."

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Right now, the masks are just for adults. City officials are working to get more for children. Milwaukee Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson said that general guidance is that the masks are good for "roughly five days."

Milwaukee is under a mask advisory right now. A mask ordinance, which would require masks in certain indoor spaces, will go before the city's Common Council on Jan. 18.

26 January 2021, North Rhine-Westphalia, Essen: A KN95 mask is fitted in the mask test stand. The certification and testing process of FFP2 masks and KN95 masks is carried out by DMT and TüV-Nord in a laboratory in Essen. Photo: Fabian Strauch/dpa (P

"I believe that the council action here could have an enforcement mechanism, but that’s going to be tricky," the acting mayor said. "We’re going to follow the science, we’re going to work with the commissioner and folks in the health department in order to determine what the direction on this should be."

The city of Milwaukee plans to purchase an additional 50,000 masks with its own resources, too.

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