COVID mask

—Image: Tumisu from Pixabay 

With COVID-19 cases surging again throughout much of the country, and with the absence of federal rules for mitigating viral spread, state and local governments have a moral obligation to make every effort possible to curb new infections. In Wisconsin, the wealthy corporate interests that control the Wisconsin State Supreme Court and the Legislature oppose mandates on life-saving individual behaviors that might have a negative effect on business. That leaves the onus for enacting life-saving public health measures on local governments in the state.

Although wearing masks was not recommended as a prevention strategy at the pandemic’s outbreak, several studies in June supported rethinking that position. A review funded by the World Health Organization and published in the journal Lancet said that data from 172 observational studies found that face masks do reduce the risk of coronavirus infection.

“Our findings suggest, in multiple ways, that the use of masks is highly protective in health-care and community settings,” said the author of the review, Holger Schünemann, an epidemiologist and physician at McMaster University in Ontario, told the Washington Post.

The City of Milwaukee is considering a mask ordinance (MKE Cares), proposed by Ald. Marina Dimitrijevic (14th Ward). A special Milwaukee Common Council Public Safety and Health Committee meeting today at 2:30 p.m. will discuss the particulars of the program, incorporating extensive feedback received from members of the community, local health care providers, and such civic groups as VISIT Milwaukee, The Milwaukee Area Labor Council, and United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County, Dimitrijevic said in a press release.

“We’ve taken your feedback and combined it with science and best practices to develop a MKE Cares plan that will keep us all safe,” she wrote. “We won’t regret requiring people to cover their faces in this pandemic, but will regret it if we don’t.”

The Milwaukee proposal is modeled on ordinances enacted of Los Angeles, Phoenix, and San Francisco. You can read the ordinance here, but it does not include changes that already have been made, including:

  • Masks will be required outdoors when people are within six feet of others who are not members of their families or households. The original version stipulated a distance of 30 feet.
  • The age at which wearing masks is required have increased from 2 years old to 3 years old.

Officials are accepting public input ahead of this afternoon’s 2:30 meeting. To submit suggestions and questions:

  1. Visit milwaukee.legistar.com/Calendar.
  2. Select the “e-comment” button across from the meeting during which the file will be heard.
  3. Scroll down to the item number corresponding to the desired file and click the “comment” button.
  4. Fill in the necessary information, select a position and type a comment in the comment box. Comments are limited to 600 characters.
  5. Hit submit.
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