State, local leaders stress continued need for masks, face coverings in public: 'It's not hard to do'

MILWAUKEE -- Health leaders say they are working to stop an increase of coronavirus cases they've seen in Milwaukee County. This week, they've also reported an increase in hospitalized patients.

State and local health officials say they know it may be strange to get used to wearing a mask, but recommend shopping around for different kinds-- or ones with fun designs -- because you and your family will be needing them for a while still.

Gov. Tony Evers

"One of the most important things you can do to help others is to wear a mask or other face-covering in public," Gov. Tony Evers said. "Wearing a mask shouldn't be a political statement. It isn't controversial, and it's not hard to do."

A call to action Wednesday afternoon was echoed by Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik.

"The mindset of wearing a mask, we need to work on that being the new norm," said Kowalik.

Milwaukee County is now falling behind, according to health officials, on its health and safety rating system; two of the system's five categories have been downgraded this week.

Milwaukee County COVID-19 reopening indicators

The "care" category dropped from a green to a yellow designation, while "cases" dropped from yellow to red. Commissioner Kowalik said it's imperative for us not to gather, despite the sunny weather.

Jeanette Kowalik

"We also know, too, that through our enforcement mechanisms, we do have the ability to issue citations and we don't want to go there," Kowalik said. "It's better to just educate people about the order, making sure that they know it's still on."

State and local officials want to remind the public of the continued need to maintain social distancing, continue washing hands and get in the habit of wearing masks.

"Masks can sometimes get a little warm, or feel a bit awkward, but wearing one in public is a simple and necessary commitment to the common good we should all be willing to make," said Gov. Evers.

Wisconsin Department of Health Services officials say they are hiring more contact tracers to help in heavily-hit areas, such as Milwaukee County.