Southeastern Wisconsin cities scrap mask mandates, citing CDC guidance for vaccinated people

NOW: Southeastern Wisconsin cities scrap mask mandates, citing CDC guidance for vaccinated people

MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Federal guidance for fully vaccinated people has become a game changer for cities across southeastern Wisconsin. On Tuesday, May 18, Milwaukee became the latest city to announce there's an end in sight for requiring masks.

Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new mask guidance saying fully vaccinated people could resume normal activities and go maskless in most circumstances.

On Tuesday evening, the Wauwatosa Common Council unanimously approved an ordinance that mirrors the new CDC guidance, allowing people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to resume normal indoor and outdoor activities without the requirement of wearing a face covering or physically distancing. Exceptions include health care settings or in businesses where masks are required.

Wauwatosa Mayor Dennis McBride said he fully supports the ordinance.

The CDC guidance has been very misinterpreted by people. It doesn't say undo all mask restrictions. What it says is ... for fully vaccinated people, things can ease off a little bit," he said. "I urge everyone to do what the CDC and all the doctors are saying, which is: Get vaccinated. Help us all."

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett announced the city's public health order will expire on June 1, lifting capacity limits on businesses and ending the mask mandate. He said he is honoring his pledge to follow the science. Businesses can keep their restrictions in place and continuing wearing masks if they choose.

"We all know that the CDC's announcement was very, very much a surprise announcement. We want to give these establishments 13 days again to decide what's right for them," Barrett said.

Kirsten Johnson, commissioner of health for the Milwaukee Health Department, said the CDC guidance "makes it very difficult" to have a mask mandate order that is only for people who are unvaccinated.

"We are trusting individuals residents in the city of Milwaukee to be honest and to wear a mask if they are unvaccinated," she said.

The Whitefish Bay Village Board unanimously rescinded its mask ordinance at a board meeting Monday evening.

About 91 percent of Whitefish Bay residents over 16 have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the North Shore Health Department.

Tracy Sternig, owner of the Citrine + Sage Beauty Workshop in Whitefish Bay, said she's closely following CDC guidelines. She is asking unvaccinated clients to wear a mask but said vaccinated clients will get the choice.

"We do have those personal relationships with clients. So we do know over the last year where a lot of people stand and if they were planning on getting a vaccine and if they weren't. We're hoping people are honest with it. We don't want to go backwards," Sternig said.

Sternig said she is vaccinated but she will gladly put on a mask if it makes a client more comfortable.

"If they text me, call me, send me an email before -- if they're even wearing a mask and I see them wearing a mask, my first question is, 'Would you like me to put a mask on as well?'" she said.

Racine stopped enforcing its mask mandate on Friday, May 14. The Common Council voted to repeal the mask ordinance in a 10-1 vote Tuesday night. 

In Shorewood, the village board decided to end the face covering ordinance on Monday evening. According to a news release, the board's decision was based on guidance from the CDC.

The Shorewood Public Library will still require anyone over the age of 4 to wear a mask. The village said it wants to be cognizant of children and vulnerable populations that cannot be vaccinated.

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