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MPS mask mandate to stay in place 'indefinitely' after reviewing new COVID-19 data

Posted at 5:43 PM, Apr 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-21 18:43:47-04

MILWAUKEE — The mask mandate for students and teachers will stay in place indefinitely at Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS).

School district leaders say they review new Covid-19 data every Tuesday and Thursday to make that decision.

Milwaukee Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson backs the decision to keep the mask mandate in place at Milwaukee Public Schools.

“Absolutely, I think masks are very effective in the school setting,” said Johnson. “We know that our vaccinations are really low for children in the city of Milwaukee, which is absolutely a consideration for thinking about putting on masks.”

It is Johnson's job to track Covid-19 metrics and notice trends happening in Milwaukee. She follows everything from case counts and hospitalizations to waste-water data and outbreaks in congregate settings like day cares and schools. She makes sure the latest information is always available to MPS.

“Based on the latest numbers and trends, I am concerned,” said Johnson. “Across the board, numbers in all categories are increasing, so that gives me pause. Would I want to be in an enclosed space with many people without a mask on? No, I would not.”

Thursday, Milwaukee remains in the category of "substantial transmission," with 60 positive cases per 100,000 residents. On Tuesday, it was 58. Last Tuesday it was 44. The previous week, it was 32. The threshold to be upgraded to “moderate transmission,” would be 45 positive cases per 100,000 residents.

Johnson says, current numbers are an under-count, because significantly less people are getting tested, and if they are testing at home, they are not reporting their results to the city.

“All along the pandemic has been unpredictable, but especially now, it’s a very dynamic situation, and that’s a challenge,” said Johnson.

Keith Posley, the Superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools, says the city's "substantial transmission" category will keep the mask mandate in place for the near future.

The district also considers student and teacher case counts.

According to Posley, the Covid-19 positivity rate of MPS staff increased 47 percent over the past three weeks.

Among students, there have been 72 coronavirus cases over the past week. In comparison, during the last week of March, there were nine cases among students.

Still, this recent increase is a lot lower than the peak in January of 1,101 cases among students in one week.

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