Milwaukee Health Department shares COVID-19 reminders ahead of holiday weekend

NOW: Milwaukee Health Department shares COVID-19 reminders ahead of holiday weekend

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- This year, Fourth of July will look much different than last year. Local health officials are expecting an increase in gatherings, and shared reminders for the community ahead of the busy weekend.

"Last year there really was this idea that we shouldn't be getting together in large groups, that we needed to keep our masks on -- and you know, this year it's split guidance," said Dr. Jeff Pothof, chief quality officer at UW Health.

Doctors say this Fourth of July, vaccinated people can celebrate as they please, because they're well protected, but unvaccinated people should still mask and social distance indoors.

"When outdoors, probably okay to take that mask off, when you're not really close to a lot of people," adds Dr. Pothof.

The Milwaukee Health Department says as of Thursday,  the seven-day percent positive has increased slightly to 1.3-percent, but unless they see continued increase they will not issue any health orders.

"We have learned over the past 16 months to anticipate fluctuations and disease burden and will continue to watch our data and metrics closely," says Kirsten Johnson, Milwaukee's health commissioner. "I encourage everyone to head outdoors and enjoy time with your loved ones, this includes continuing to wear a mask if you're unvaccinated, avoiding extremely crowded gatherings, being outside whenever possible and continuing to wash your hands as often as possible when you're eating and drinking."

With the Delta variant and a larger number of get-togethers this year, health officials say there is a possibility for mass COVID spread between unvaccinated individuals, but the current low volume of COVID will help to lessen the blow.

"That means we'll see less transmission during say, a holiday get-together than we would if the virus was at such high rates like it was during Thanksgiving and Christmas," Dr. Pothof adds.

"We know the Delta variant proportion of cases has been increasing nationwide, has been increasing in Wisconsin, so certainly I think all of those preventive measures are still very, very important," said Darren Rausch, health officer for Greenfield Health Department.

Pediatricians say it's important not to be complacent because kids under age 12 still can't get vaccinated, and COVID isn't the only respiratory virus spreading this upcoming holiday weekend.  

"We are seeing increase in the circulation of non-COVID respiratory illness right now, especially among children in Wisconsin," said Dr. Heather Paradis, deputy commissioner of medical services and chief medical officer for Milwaukee Health Department.

The Milwaukee Health Department also wants to remind the community that a number of vaccination and testing sites such as American Family Field will be closed starting Friday, July 2 and will reopen Tuesday, July 6 after the holiday weekend.

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