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Milwaukee Health Department earns praise for its coronavirus preparations

There are currently no confirmed cases of Coronavirus in Milwaukee, but the city is preparing for the possibility of an outbreak. Experts from the City of Milwaukee Health Department updated members of Milwaukee's Common Council on their progress at a special meeting of the Public Safety & Health Committee on Thursday morning.  

The city is adhering to Center for Disease Control and Wisconsin Department of Health and Safety guidelines for responding to the virus, and partnering with community organizations to educate the public about the virus, Commissioner of Health Jeanette Kowalik said.

Ald. Mark Borkowski praised the department's efforts. "You've been very proactive," he told Kowalik. "Obviously there's a lot more work to be done, but for anybody to say we're not prepared, not thinking about it, is just false."

City of Milwaukee Health Department Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik speaking at Thursday's meeting

Milwaukee Health Department Infectious Disease Epidemiologist Lindsey Page testified that outreach is key to mitigating the virus's impact. "We can't stress enough that we need public cooperation," Page said. "We need everybody on board to stop the spread of coronavirus."

Page said that she is working with Milwaukee Public Schools to send out a letter to parents educating them about the virus and is looking into the possibility of sending nursing students into schools to do hand-washing exercises with students. "We're trying to get the message out about those non-pharmaceutical interventions they can be doing," she said. She also pledged continued outreach to local nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

"To prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses, clean hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and avoid contact with sick individuals," the Milwaukee Health Department's website advises. "Stay home from work or school if you are sick." The virus's threat to the general public is still considered low, according to the department.

"Right now there isn't an immediate threat," Ald. Michael Murphy stressed at Thursday's meeting. "It's important not to cause people to panic."

The meeting ended with two members of the public also commending the Milwaukee Health Department for its efforts. One man, who identified himself as a local business owner, said "I'd like to say I think you guys are doing an excellent job."

Another, Ericka Sinclair of the City of Milwaukee Board of Health, echoed that sentiment. "They are working at an excellent level considering the pressures they are under, both publicly and internally," she said.