Milwaukee Health Department hands out another 500,000 N95 masks

NOW: Milwaukee Health Department hands out another 500,000 N95 masks

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The city of Milwaukee started handing out another 500,000 N95 masks on Thursday, Jan. 13.

N95 masks will be provided via drive-up only at the Northwest Health Center (7630 W. Mill Rd.), Southside Health Center (1639 S. 23rd St.), Menomonee Valley Site (2401 W. St. Paul Ave.). The Milwaukee Public Library branches were handing out the masks, but ran out Wednesday afternoon. 

A full list of locations and hours can be found HERE

In all, the Milwaukee Health Department will distribute over one million masks in a week. 

“Masking is critically important to mitigating the spread of COVID-19, and the higher quality N95 masks are even more effective in protecting against the Omicron variant,” said Milwaukee Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson. “The Milwaukee Health Department staff is doing their best to get these masks into the hands of our community, but we ask everyone to exercise civility and patience.”

According to a news release from the health department, during the first round of mask giveaways on Monday, Jan. 10, staff reported some unfortunate hostile actions from those waiting for masks. The Milwaukee Health Department reiterates that all protocols are in place to safely and equitably distribute the masks and asks everyone to follow the rules. 

Each car will receive a pack of 20 masks. These masks are reusable if properly sanitized between uses. To sanitize an N95 or KN95 mask, remove the respirator and place it in a breathable paper bag. Close the bag and allow it to sit at room temperature for at least 72 hours before reusing the mask. This process can be repeated but should not exceed five times before discarding the mask.

CBS 58 spoke with several people who were simply grateful to receive a quality tool in the fight against COVID-19. 

"The cloth masks aren't the best, the surgical masks are better, but the N-95 masks are really the most protective, especially against the omicron strain," said Mary Grogan of Milwaukee. 

The Northwest Health Center was the only location not allowing walk-ups. Staff say they faced some backlash on that but it was the safest decision for their team. 

"The other drive thru locations do have that capability, but here there's people walking across the street parking on private property. And they walked across in front of someone and Jennifer was trying to get out of the way, she was almost hit, I can't have that," said Jay Labecki. 

Labecki went on to say they are providing masks to those who get a COVID test, vaccine or booster at their location. At the end of the day Wednesday, crews handed out more than half the masks available. 

The rest of the available masks will be handed out on Friday. The health department encourages people to follow them on social media to get the latest updates on mask availability now and in the future. 

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