Here’s the latest update on COVID-19 in Milwaukee and the resources you need to combat it.
Officials emphasize mental health as suicides rise
Suicides are on the rise in Milwaukee County, city and council leaders said last week during a media briefing.
Mayor Tom Barrett said the coronavirus, economic anxieties and the fight for racial justice have added to stress levels in society.
Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley told reporters there were 23 suicides last month alone. Emergency service calls are up 60% for mental health services, and they have increased by 34% for overdoses and 72% for suicide attempts.
Crowley referred to comments in another briefing by Dr. Ben Weston, director of medical services for the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management, that social isolation can lead to heightened mental health issues and suicide attempts.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve always used the term ‘physical distancing’ and not ‘social distancing,’ ” Crowley said. “That’s because humans need social connections. We’re going to be living through this pandemic for a long time, and we must find ways to stay connected with our loved ones.”
Weston said people experiencing mental health issues should contact someone they trust to let them know.
“Reach out,” Weston said. “Sometimes it can be the most important thing you can do to prevent the progression from a 911 call to a suicide.”
Diocese tells parishioners to return to church; health officials urge caution
Archbishop Jerome Listecki called for Catholics to return to church last week, as the dispensation granted to Catholics at the beginning of the pandemic expires Sept. 14. A dispensation is a pardon from missing normally obligated religious services due to serious conditions or situations.
Barrett, when asked at last week’s media briefing, reminded the public that there are no exemptions for religious affiliations from COVID-19.
“Whatever activities are taking place, no matter how laudable they are, no matter how religious they are, they have to be done in accordance with public health,” Barrett said. “We’ve seen far too many stories of wedding or funerals or church gatherings or choir practices that have been places of large spreading of this disease.”
Crowley said anyone planning on attending church should wear a mask, and he also warned that singing in enclosed spaces with or without a mask can effectively spread the virus.
Cases rising among white population
Greenfield Health Commissioner Darren Rausch provided data last week that cases are rising among the white population in the county.
While Latinx residents are still two times as likely to get the disease, whites have nearly eclipsed them in total cases. Rausch said this is likely because the coronavirus has spread further into the suburbs.
“Overall, this is not OK,” Rausch said. “We don’t want to see cases growing out of control in Milwaukee County, regardless of who is impacted.”
Rausch said county-wide data shows testing has dropped dramatically since early July. He urged anyone with symptoms or who has been exposed to the virus to take advantage of readily available testing.
Where to get free masks
To obtain a free mask, residents can visit these sites:
- The Keenan Health Clinic, 3200 N. 36th St., is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
- The Northwest Health Center, 7630 W. Mill Rd., is open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.
- The Southside Health Center, 1639 S. 23rd St., is open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.
NNS reporters also gathered a list of where to buy locally made masks if you’re looking to show some local business love when masking up.
Check the City of Milwaukee Health Department’s website for the most updated facts and answers to questions about the mask ordinance.
Resources to know
Look here for up-to-date statistics on COVID-19 in the county. More precautions on how to stay safe and information on COVID-19 can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.
Contact your health provider, call IMPACT 2-1-1 or take a look at the county’s testing site map to find a testing center near you. The free community testing sites at UMOS, 2701 S. Chase Ave., and Custer Stadium by Barack Obama School, 4300 W. Fairmount Ave. continue to operate.
Check out our continuing coronavirus coverage.
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