MILWAUKEE - City of Milwaukee leaders are advising residents to mask up indoors even if they're vaccinated against the coronavirus. This, on the heels of new CDC guidance with the dominant presence of the delta variant causing an increase in positive COVID-19 cases.
According to officials in Milwaukee, in the past month, the burden rate has gone from the "low transmission" category into the "substantial transmission" category, and the CDC’s updated masking recommendations are for those in areas of substantial or high transmission.
The Milwaukee Health Department strongly advises everyone, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a mask when indoors with people outside of their household.
Breakthrough COVID-19 infections are rare but possible for those who are fully vaccinated. While the vaccine effectively protects individuals from severe symptoms, hospitalization and death, preliminary evidence shows fully vaccinated people who become infected can still spread the virus to others.
"We are calling on our community to step up and mask up to keep yourselves and your loved ones safe," said Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson. "The most effective way to combat this surge in positive cases is through vaccination, but until vaccination rates improve, we must be willing to take simple steps such as wearing a mask to protect our community and the most vulnerable."
This is not a mask mandate, but rather, city leaders are urging people in Milwaukee to put a mask on when they are inside.
"We open up little by little, little by little," said Raul Varela.
It's been a rough year for Varela at Fiesta Salon and Spa.
"When we first opened, we didn’t know if we were going to have customers or not," said Varela.
The business owner has been navigating changes throughout the pandemic, from a temporary closure to a mask mandate. More than a year later, the salon is operating with fewer staff and customers, leaving masks optional for patrons while employees are still masking up.
"Me as a business owner, I could only do so much," said Varela.
While this isn't a mandate in Milwaukee, that's not out of the question as cases rise.
"I don’t think anybody wants to go back to masks. I think that’s clear, but obviously, I think it’s going to be necessary if the numbers keep going in this direction," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
Varela said he's used to making changes, staying optimistic cases will decline and business can get back on track.
"We’re still trying to respect the situation," he said.
In addition to masking, the Milwaukee Health Department strongly advises anyone, regardless of vaccination status, who experiences symptoms or has come in contact with someone who has COVID-19, get tested and quarantine until a negative COVID-19 test is received. More information on free testing locations and hours can be found at milwaukee.gov/COVIDtesting.
If you or someone you know is looking for options to get vaccinated, hours and locations for walk-up clinics and a schedule of mobile clinics can be found at milwaukee.gov/COVIDvax.