Here’s the latest update on COVID-19 in Milwaukee and the resources you need to combat it.
Milwaukee Health Department considers options for vaccine distribution
As details of a possible vaccine for COVID-19 emerge, the Milwaukee Health Department is considering its options for distribution.
Interim Health Commissioner Marlaina Jackson said in the Common Council’s Public Health and Safety committee meeting last week that it’s difficult to plan exactly around the vaccine, since no specific date has been announced for its release. She said that the city plans to use its flu vaccine distribution plan as a blueprint for the distribution of a vaccine. The city distributed 3,000 flu vaccines this autumn, exceeding its goals.
Jackson said the distribution will prioritize frontline health care workers in its first few rounds. Subsequently, any vaccine will be distributed in a phased approach for the general public.
Pfizer announced last Monday that it had a vaccine for the coronavirus that was up to 90% effective. The vaccine reportedly provides protection from the disease for one month but could last longer.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the vaccine might be available to the general public as early as April.
The vaccine, however, is difficult to store. The vaccine has to be kept at minus 80 degrees Celsius because of a special genetic material called mRNA. This genetic material will dissolve under warmer temperatures, rendering the vaccine useless.
Jackson said the Health Department is examining the storage issue in a “very mindful and careful way.”
Common Council to vote on increasing COVID-related fines
The Common Council’s Public Health and Safety Committee, chaired by Ald. Marina Dimitrijevic, voted to allow the Health Department to charge steeper fines for businesses in violation of the city’s latest health order.
The proposal will go to a general council vote on Nov. 24 to determine if it’s implemented.
The legislation would move to reclassify the citation for violating the ordinance, making it more severe. The current maximum fine is $500. The new fines would likely range from $500 to $5,000. The new ordinance also would give the department the authority to charge a business up to $20,000.
Mayor Tom Barrett said during a media briefing last week that his office would work closely with the Common Council to determine the actual fine amount.
“There’s no question that we have to raise the fines,” Barrett said.
Barrett said the $500 fine has proven to be an inadequate deterrent for some business owners.
Milwaukee Health Department introduces new contact tracing efforts
Due to the spike in COVID-19 numbers over the last several weeks, the Milwaukee Health Department is asking for assistance in contact tracing from people who have tested positive.
In a statement last week, Jackson, interim health commissioner, asked residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 to consider personally alerting people they have been in contact with. Jackson asked anyone who was asymptomatic or had mild to moderate symptoms to try to do so.
“As the case volumes grow, we want to speed the contact tracing work,” Jackson said in the statement. “The best way to avoid delays, or the real possibility of a contact not receiving information, is to encourage person-to-person contact tracing.”
The Health Department, which has 186 employees and additional staff working on contact tracing efforts.
Those who have tested positive should alert close contacts they may have. The following would be considered a close contact:
- People who have had physical contact with someone who has tested positive, including handshakes or hugs
- People within the same household
- People who have spent the night in the same household as someone who has tested positive
- People who have spent 15 total minutes within 6 feet of someone who has tested positive
Those who are positive may have started spreading the disease up two days before symptoms appeared and should alert people they’ve been in contact with within that range.
The Wisconsin Division of Health Services has published guidelines for contact tracing. A website called Tell Your Contacts allows people to anonymously alert those they may have been in contact with.
Gov. Tony Evers releases new executive order urging Wisconsinites to stay home
Gov. Tony Evers signed an executive order last week that urges Wisconsin residents to stay home as much as possible and to only leaving the house when necessary.
The state saw 7,000 cases last week, and it set new single-day records in deaths, cases and hospitalizations.
Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley said during a media briefing that Wisconsin, as a state, now averages more cases per day than New York City did at the height of the pandemic.
Things also continue to worsen locally. Ben Weston, medical director for the Department of Emergency Services, said Milwaukee County set a new record with 55 hospitalizations.
How you can help friends and loved ones who test positive
Where to get free masks
To obtain a free mask, residents can visit these sites:
- 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 the Northwest Health Center, 7630 W. Mill Rd., and Southside Health Center, 1639 S. 23rd St., are now open and operating. Miller Park is also opening as a testing site effective Oct. 19.
For more information on testing, including how to identify symptoms and when you should get tested, visit TestUpMKE.com. Available in English, Spanish, Hmong, Burmese and Arabic.
Check out our continuing coronavirus coverage.
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