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COVID: Local health experts say we're entering new phase, but pandemic is not over

Posted at 10:37 PM, Mar 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-15 06:10:08-04

MILWAUKEE — Health experts say we are entering a new phase of the pandemic, but COVID-19 is not done. Low transmission rates coupled with a low positivity rate allowed for an in-person COVID briefing on Monday.

For the first time in two years, medical experts, along with local leaders held the briefing in-person at North Division High School.

Milwaukee Acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson and Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley spoke about the important milestones and improvements that have led to the ease of the mask mandate.

However, Crowley said although the mask mandate has been lifted in the city and county, people will still need to wear masks inside certain buildings such as the courthouse and county jail facility to name a few.

As of Sunday, the seven day rolling average is 341 cases. Just three months ago that number was more than 11,600 cases, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Health experts say while trends are going in the right direction, vaccination rates still remain low for young adults.

"This pandemic has affected our entire community and will take our entire community to recover," said Kirsten Johnson, Milwaukee Health Commissioner.

Johnson said recovering can include many things, one of which can be additional COVID-19 vaccine shots moving forward.

On Monday, Pfizer's CEO said a fourth dose of the vaccine will be needed.

"I do think there's going to be movement towards it being a three part series and then a fourth booster and likely a booster on an annual basis," Johnson said.

"I think this is going to end up being an annual vaccine to address variants perhaps, but also keep our immunity strong," added Dr. Ben Weston, Milwaukee County Chief Health Policy Advisor.

Dr. Weston also encouraged people to take advantage of the low transmission rates and get vaccinated if you haven't already, and to also to keep mitigation efforts in mind. Such as masking around large groups or if you are not feeling well.

Milwaukee Public School's (MPS) Superintendent Dr. Keith Posley was asked if MPS will drop its mask mandate.

"We are looking at the data on a daily basis," he said.

Posley said the school board of directors will be meeting sometime this month and will decide what the next steps should be.

Health officials did also report an uptick in COVID concentration detected by the Milwaukee area waste water tracking system at Jones Island.

Johnson said it's too soon to sound the alarms just yet, but health officials are keeping a close eye.

"If we start to see those numbers increase, we will make sure there is additional access to testing and push out more clinics," she said.

Weston added that when community testing is low, waste waster is a valuable resource to help us understand and anticipate future trends of this disease.

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