Skyrocketing COVID numbers spur continued calls for indoor mask mandate in Milwaukee

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The record-breaking COVID case numbers are keeping the conversation about a possible mask mandate in Milwaukee at the forefront.

Alderwoman Dimitrijevic wants the community to have every tool at its disposal as it battles the pandemic. To her that means an indoor mask mandate, as area positivity rates climb.

She said, "Our children, my own, are in virtual school, there are very few hospital beds left, my question is what are we waiting for?"

Dimitrijevic has been calling for the reimplementation of an indoor mask mandate for some time, especially as troubling trends continue. "It's getting smarter and smarter. I mean, 37% positivity in the city of Milwaukee."

The city of Milwaukee's positivity rate of 37.4% is higher than the county's 34.1% positivity rate. And it's more than double the 18.4% rate in Dane County, where a countywide mask mandate has been extended to Feb. 1.

In the weekly COVID update Tuesday, Milwaukee Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson said people should absolutely be masked indoors. But she said she has concerns about her authority to issue a mandate, according to state statute. She said, "A health order at this point should really be done through legislative action and through an ordinance. And I have been saying that all along. I encourage the alderwoman to proceed in pursuing an ordinance for the city of Milwaukee."

But Dimitrijevic is confident the Common Council will act if the health commissioner doesn't. She said, "I think we'll get it done. I think somehow, some way we will get it done."

Alderwoman Dimitrijevic says implementing a mask mandate earlier could have helped prevent the current situation in which she says people are exhausted, there are hours-long lines at testing sites and skyrocketing numbers.

We requested an interview with Acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson but he was unavailable.

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