MILWAUKEE — Those attending events at Fiserv Forum will be required to wear masks again beginning Friday at the Harlem Globetrotters game, officials confirm to TMJ4.
Masks were previously required for all arena events until June.
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The Bucks play against the New Orleans Pelicans at home on Saturday.
“Thoughtful and proactive steps are exactly what’s needed as COVID cases climb in Milwaukee. That’s why I am pleased Fiserv Forum has opted to require masks at events there,” Acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson said. “The latest strain of COVID spreads quickly, and everyone can take steps to reduce the danger. Vaccination, social distancing and masking are all important.”
The new requirement comes just a day after it was announced the Omicron COVID-19 variant is now the dominant strain in Wisconsin. A soaring number of confirmed cases and hospitalizations in the area are at levels not seen since the highs recorded in November and December of last year.
Milwaukee County's Chief Health Policy Advisor, Ben Weston, noted that it took the Alpha variant 12 weeks to become dominant, 11 weeks for the Delta variant and just 4 weeks for the Omicron variant.
Meanwhile the state's hospitals are beginning to become critically full, with UW Health saying on Tuesday that the variant's surge could make it impossible to care for all their critical patients.
Just over 61 percent of Milwaukee County residents have received their first dose of the vaccine, and just over 56 percent have received two doses, according to Wisconsin Department of Health Services data. That's slightly higher than Wisconsin's average vaccination rates but significantly below the counties leading in those numbers.
“We had a meeting earlier today. It’s something we’ve been keeping an eye on," said Dennis Williams, Senior Vice President of Fiserv Forum.
People in Deer District Tuesday said they're happy to know the new policy is going into effect.
“I mean, we’re in the middle of a huge surge right now. Numbers going up everywhere. Worldwide. I think it’s important," said Matthew Grinde, a Wisconsin Badgers Hockey fan.
Right now, Fiserv Forum operates with full capacity crowds. It's something they plan to continue for the moment with hopes the mask policy would prevent a need to limit crowds.
“The hope is here is to get in front of this so we don’t have to have those discussions. So masking here has been proven. I know the health department encourages is. The CDC encourages it, so we’re willing to take part in that," Williams said.
A number of Milwaukee-area companies are also postponing their in-person return to offices amid the spike.
Covid-19 concerns are also prompting people to cancel New Year's Eve celebrations.