As CDC recommends masking up again indoors, coverings remain optional for city, county and Unified for now
Like it or not, masks are making a comeback.
Mask wearing requirements for indoor public gatherings, including for those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, have returned in some Southeastern Wisconsin communities. The requirements come as federal health experts warn of a more contagious virus strain circulating nationwide.
Officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday re-issued mask wearing recommendations for people regardless of their vaccination status, especially in areas of the country with high or substantially high transmission for the novel coronavirus. That includes the Delta variant, an emergent and more contagious strain.
Also included in the revised guidelines is the recommendation for “universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status,” according to the CDC.
In nearby Racine, officials have now required city employees and the public who visit city-owned buildings and facilities to mask up again. In Milwaukee, city employees and members of the public will be required to wear masks when they set foot inside their respective buildings beginning next week.
Both Racine and Milwaukee counties are in areas considered substantially high for COVID-19, including the variant. According to the CDC, Kenosha County is currently considered an area with a level of “moderate” transmission.
While Racine officials have chosen to require mask wearing indoors on its properties again, Kenosha has not, according to City Administrator John Morrissey.
“There is no change. We have discussed the CDC guidelines with our (human resources) staff,” Morrissey said. “But as of now, I am not going to make any changes.”
Currently no city-wide ordinance is in effect in Kenosha mandating masks in public areas or businesses, although employers and business owners may choose to require them. Kenosha’s mask mandate expired on May 26.
Similarly, Kenosha County is not instituting any required face covering policies for staff or the public on its properties, County Executive Jim Kreuser said Thursday. Nonetheless, he urged people to become vaccinated.
“We are going to closely monitor the local case numbers as they relate to the CDC guidelines and revisit this issue internally next week,” Kreuser said. “Meantime, we continue to urge our employees and the public to get vaccinated if they haven’t already.”
Pleasant Prairie Village Administrator Nathan Thiel said the village is not looking to implement any new requirements citing that CDC’s recommendation pertained to areas with low vaccination rates where COVID-19 cases are rising.
“Last I saw, Pleasant Prairie does lead the county in vaccination rates. I am not aware of Kenosha seeing a significant rise in cases. But we will continue to stay attuned with the county health department,” Thiel said.
At Kenosha Unified’s School Board meeting Tuesday night, a few parents of students who attend schools in the district expressed concerns about sending their children to class in the fall as the district recently loosened its policy for mask wearing.
Jennifer Johnson, who spoke virtually to the School Board, asked that the district reconsider its decision and make masks mandatory given the new CDC recommendations, low vaccination rates among students eligible for the vaccine and because children under 12 still cannot be vaccinated.
“Everybody agrees that kids should be back in school for in-person learning — with mitigated strategies, and that includes mandatory masking,” said Johnson, whose son will be attending Indian Trail High School and Academy in the fall.
Johnson said Kenosha Unified should be in line with larger school districts in the state, such as Madison, Milwaukee and Racine, which currently require masks.
In the Racine Unified School District “masks are currently required for all summer school students and all RUSD staff,” Stacy Tapp, the district’s spokesperson, said Thursday.
However, as of Aug. 1, masks will be optional, Racine Unified officials announced last week. Tapp said that the district would continue to review the latest guidance and data “and that could change at some point.”
David Brownholland, who also attended Kenosha Unified’s meeting virtually, said the district should listen to the experts and require masks so that all students can go back to school in the fall.
“These experts are saying that our children aren’t safe enough unless everyone around is masked,” said Brownholland, a local chemist whose children attended school through the district’s virtual option last year but wants his children to be able to return to school in person.
“This isn’t a real choice. Forcing my child into an unsafe environment with unmasked and unvaccinated children takes choice away. Wearing a mask does not adequately protect my children,” he said. “They need all of those around them to wear masks in order to be protected.”
In mid-June the Kenosha Unified School Board approved the district’s Better Together Plan, a blueprint for the upcoming 2021-22 school year. The plan ended a mask mandate and instead makes masks an option for students and staff. Among parents surveyed by the district, close to 70 percent were not in favor of mandatory mask wearing in the fall. Under the district’s plan, the goal is to have all students return in person this fall, but also includes a virtual option for families.
Tanya Ruder, Unified’s spokesperson, said Wednesday night that the district currently had no immediate plans to reinstate mandatory face coverings for students and staff.+4View CommentsLove0Funny0Wow0Sad0Angry4
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