Since Milwaukee’s mask ordinance took effect on July 16, more people are wearing a mask. According to Milwaukee County, our city has seen some encouraging news, a decline in COVID cases showing improvement.
“More people are wearing a mask so we’re seeing lower positivity which is what we need,” said Dr. Jeanette Kowalik, Milwaukee Health Commissioner.
Public health tends to work best when we embrace prevention strategies, such as wearing a mask, social distancing and upkeeping hygiene. Kowalik said the health department is working on procuring thousands of masks so residents in our city will always have access to free masks.
“By fall, people should have at least a week’s worth of masks at hands so that you can wash them, making sure they are totally dry before using them so you don’t get an infection from bacteria building up,” said Kowalik. “Just embracing these very low-cost very accessible strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
Kowalik advises paper masks over ones with thicker filters for individuals who might have trouble breathing or anyone that is exercising. Kowalik said knowing that simple prevention strategies have been effective keeps her hopeful.
“If you look at some of the old school pictures from the Spanish Flu and now, it’s just like, ‘Okay here we go again another virus’ but knowing that something super basic back then was helpful,” said Kowalik. “In a weird way, with all of our technology masks still help us now, it is pretty powerful.”
Dr. Kowalik breaks down popular anti-mask memes.
“Obliviously if you’re working in a lab, you’re definitely more at risk of being exposed to raw viral material then someone stepping in a coffee shop to pick up their coffee,” said Kowalik. “So comparing the level of PPE, personal protective equipment, and additional safety precautions of lab setting to just an average person out in the public is a little ridiculous. definitely propaganda. We also are learning more about the virus, whether it’s more air-born than droplet, but the data that we have as of now definitely shows that wearing a mask provides some protection. So more people wearing masks, that’s going to reduce the infection rate in the community.”
“Yeah, I do have issues with this because there are people that don’t trust the government but at the end of the day public health’s whole premise is to protect the greater good,” said Kowalik. “We have this new virus and what we do know now is that wearing masks, distancing and of course hygiene is how we can prevent the spread. Knowing that the science that we have as of now says this is how we can protect ourselves and then saying wearing a mask is about compliance. I mean if that’s how you roll, if you don’t want anyone telling you what to do and you want to have so many liberties and freedoms, that’s your prerogative. However, you can be a carrier and you could possibly expose someone that cannot fight it off and die from it. It’s not just about you living your best life and exercising your freedom, you do have an obligation to protect others from being exposed to the virus if you happen to be a carrier.”
“I would edit this to say, ‘Mommy why aren’t we wearing masks? Because BS comes out of your mouth,’” said Kowalik. “Nonetheless, trying to go into this whole MAGA type of mentality of the 1950s and let’s go back to that period of time, which was a very harmful period of time for many of us. This sense of where we are at as a country right now and how many people have died, how many people have been negatively impacted by COVID-19 just because of stupidity and partisan politics. This virus doesn’t care if you’re red or blue, it’s just sad that this is being used to divide us.”
This one isn’t an anti-mask meme, but variations of it are popular online. “I’ve seen this in a variety of formats so with different percentages and I don’t recall off the top of my head which ones are most accurate,” said Kowalik. “I do know that you know by not wearing masks either party that your risk is highest and then if one person is wearing the mask and the other isn’t then there is some protection but not as adequate as if both parties are wearing a mask.”
“You saved the best meaning the most ridiculous for me,” said Kowalik. “No one’s forcing you to wear a mask, no one is tying down and slapping the mask on your face. You understand that wearing a mask helps us move into a new normal without having shut everything down again. It’s funny that that’s not even mentioned on this meme about shelter in place orders or just staying at home. The tracking of your location, that’s related to various apps that can be used for contact tracing. You know, some people aren’t cool with that, they don’t want to be they don’t want their information being shared but we’re not even using those types of apps. The technology piece is something that we really need to step up here in our town, but we don’t have the capacity to have something like that. Then the vaccine is obviously it’s going to be a big deal. Once the vaccine is safe and ready for mass distribution, we’re going to stand up vaccine campaigns to get herd immunity where it needs to be. The guns and the box, I mean seriously? If you think about what’s happening, how these militias and the extremism that’s been happening in our country, and then trying to flip anyone that’s opposing what’s happening by this in administration into being anti-fascist is really concerning. Definitely making the stretch in the Holocaust is a super foul because it’s just disrespecting all those that have lost loved ones due to the Holocaust, that have survived it or are descendants of survivors. Just knowing exactly what they went through to how they were targeted for being Jewish, being gay or being Black, to make these connections is mindblowing to me.”