MILWAUKEE — The City of Milwaukee Health Department has issued a city-wide mask advisory for all individuals, regardless of vaccination status.
This comes less than a day after the CDC moved Milwaukee County into the "high" level for community transmission. According to the health department, this level is based on three things: new cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days, new hospital admissions with COVID-19 per 100,000 people in the last seven days, and percent of inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients.
The new advisory includes all individuals over the age of two who can medically tolerate wearing a mask.
"Masking is a critical public health tool and a key layer of protection against transmitting and contracting COVID-19. While different types of masks provide different levels of protection, it is important to remember any mask, worn consistently and snugly, is better than no mask," the health department said in a statement.
The City of Milwaukee Health Department said they recorded 270.9 new positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people over seven days. The percentage of positive COVID-19 test results is now at 13.3%.
64.6% of Milwaukee adults 16 years and older are fully vaccinated, and 48.6% of fully vaccinated people have received a booster dose, the health department said. Of children ages 5 to 11, 20% have completed their pediatric COVID-19 vaccine series and 24.3% have received at least one dose.
The health department mentioned higher-quality masks such as KN95 masks and N95 respirators, which they say offer an additional layer of protection.
"In addition to masking, the Milwaukee Health Department strongly advises implementing a layered mitigation strategy: stay up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccines, physically distance and avoid crowded spaces, improve ventilation of indoor spaces, practice thorough hand hygiene, and test to prevent spread when sick or identified as a close contact," the health department said.
While this may feel all too familiar Commissioner of Health Kirsten Johnson believes we are in a different place in the pandemic where they are not seeing the same level of hospitalizations and severe illness. Plus, the numbers are nowhere near last winter's spike.
"We have tools that we didn't have so we know that vaccines work. We know boosters are eligible and available. We know there are now antivirals," Johnson said.
The mask advisory is not a legal mandate. However, as we enter a season packed with big gatherings some organizations are making adjustments.
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee said in light of current health conditions they are highly recommending people wear face masks indoors and in particular at commencement.
Marquette University made a similar announcement on Friday. However, a spokesperson noted their commencement ceremony will be held outdoors at the American Family Insurance Amphitheater at Summerfest.
Plymouth Church Milwaukee reinstated a face mask requirement for people indoors last week when their team noticed COVID-19 trends rising.
Pastor Teresa Howell-Smith said they host several events and can hold up to 300 people.
"We want to make sure that we care for each other. I know it's a nuisance. but hopefully if we do our part and we can save the heartache from another family or friends," Howell-Smith said.
Once Milwaukee County drops to the medium level of COVID-19 community spread, the advisory will end.