MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee's Common Council is now, and has been faced with the rapid spread of COVID-19. The numbers paint a clear picture of the significance of the virus.
"We have messaged over and over how critically important it is to be vaccinated, to be boosted and to wear a mask indoors,” said Health Commissioner Kristen Johnson. "We are doing everything we can."
What's not as clear - is how the city will respond.
Friday, Common Council's Public Safety and Health Committee recommended reintroducing a city-wide mask mandate. The caveat is that it won’t be enforced.
Nearly 38 percent of all COVID-19 tests reported are coming back positive. This is even as 61 percent of people over age 16 have completed their vaccine series.
"I think it's something that should be done. I think that we never should've gotten rid of the policy to begin with,” said A.J. Dixon.
Dixon owns Lazy Susan in Bay View. She supports a mask mandate and says she planned on closing her restaurant for two weeks to keep her employees safe. Now she'll shut down a week earlier than planned.
"As a business owner, it is my responsibility to keep my staff safe. It's my responsibility to keep my guests safe, it is my responsibility to do what I can do,” Dixons said.
The Metropolitan Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce pushed back on the move.
“Vaccinations and booster shots are the most effective way to turn COVID-19 from pandemic to endemic. MMAC has been consistently communicating this to its vast membership. The region’s hospitals are full right now, and the vast majority of patients who are sick with COVID-19 are unvaccinated.
Masks (especially those of N95 quality) are part of the protection protocols that can help stop the spread. Many Milwaukee Region employers, public-facing venues and educational institutions have implemented mask requirements. However, an unenforceable mask mandate shifts the burden of convincing people to wear masks to the business community and its front-line employees. It requires employees to act as the "mask police."
Personal responsibility is front and center to living with COVID. A myriad of Swiss cheese regulations applied to a mobile population will not be effective.
Dixon said the burden to get through this pandemic should be on everyone living in it.
"We want to make it through this, together. We all should be in this together,” she said.
The full council vote takes place Jan. 18.