MILWAUKEE — The latest surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalization has Milwaukee city leaders talking about how to move forward.
During a Tuesday briefing, Milwaukee's health commissioner said the city has reached an extremely high level of community transmission of the virus and called the situation distressing.
"Since receiving data earlier this afternoon, the Milwaukee Health Department has been in discussion with the mayor's office and common council members to determine which steps need to be taken to prioritize the health and safety of Milwaukeeans," Johnson said.
Johnson doubled down, calling on more people to get vaccinated and wear masks indoors.
Local health leaders said the extremely contagious delta variant is fueling the numbers. When infected with this variant, people carry higher viral loads despite vaccine status. However, those who are vaccinated are better off.
"If you're unlucky enough to have a breakthrough infection while vaccinated, you have a tenfold or greater reduction in risk of severe disease or death, as compared to someone who's unvaccinated," said Dr. Ben Weston with the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management.
Johnson has been talking with entertainment venues about potentially requiring vaccine proof or a negative test, but nothing is finalized. She is also working on what mandating vaccines for city employees may look like.
With the new school year inching closer, doctors believe in-person learning is best, but strongly advocate for face masks, which can help keep kids in school.
"That's going to cause a lot less disruption to classrooms, and a lot less disruption to schools. Quite frankly, I'm kind of dismayed at schools that aren't doing this, because this is such a good idea in such a good way to keep schools open," said Dr. Gregory DeMuri, a pediatric infectious disease specialist with UW Health.
So far, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported 491 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases with people who reported attending the Deer District or a Milwaukee Bucks game. However, state officials stressed that they do not know if these cases truly stem from these specific gatherings since most people have multiple possible exposures.