WAUWATOSA — As more and more cities, school districts and stores remove their mask requirements, a Wauwatosa alderwoman wants to make sure those who choose to continue to wear masks aren’t stigmatized or targeted.
Pick ’N Save grocery stores are just the latest major retailer with a large presence in the Milwaukee area to no longer require customers to wear masks while shopping. While some say they’re done with masks for good, others tell TMJ4 News they will continue to mask up until the pandemic is done.
Within the past week, cities and businesses have adapted to new CDC guidance that says masks are no longer needed in most situations for those who are fully vaccinated.
“I’m not going to lie, I was really happy,” said Sarah Baumgartner of New Berlin.
Baumgartner said she’s vaccinated and only plans to wear a mask inside stores that still require them, like her hairstylist.
“I’m confident in the vaccine and I’d rather not wear a mask if I don’t have to,” she said.
Aziz said he’s done with the discomfort.
“I feel like I can actually breathe without a mask, but at the same time, I'm extremely happy that I'm vaccinated,” he said.
Mask wearing has been one of the most controversial aspects of the pandemic. A recent survey of more than 2,000 people by the Consumer Report found most are comfortable going mask-less in public, but 18 percent say they will continue to wear face-coverings for "some time into the future."
Before Wauwatosa leaders voted to let their mask mandate expire, Alderwoman Nancy Welch said she was reminded that there are segments of the community who are immunocompromised or ineligible for the vaccine due to their young age.
"We want to make sure that moving forward here, that they're not going to be stigmatized or pressured or made to feel uncomfortable for continuing to wear masks when they have very good reasons for doing so,” Alderwoman Welch said.
Ashley Haas said her good reason is to protect her son.
“He is somebody who has asthma and let's say last year he had ten sick days,” she said. “This year, with wearing masks and all of the mitigation measures that are being taken, he had one sick day."
While Haas is confident masks make a difference, she’s also experienced the fallout from the polarization of face-coverings.
"I have found that I've distanced myself from some people who are pushing for no masks in the school, or just totally to throw all of that out the window and just be done with the pandemic,” she said.
Mohamed Ahmed said he will continue to wear his mask as a sign of respect and to remain protected.
"Until this pandemic ends,” he said. “Like, I'm sorry, I just want to be 100 percent safe."
Aziz said there’s no need to be sorry.
“Everyone has a right to make their own decisions regarding their own health and I cannot disrespect them, no matter what,” he said.