MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has issued a recommendation asking people to once again wear masks indoors or in large gatherings of people, regardless of vaccination status.
The recommendation does not carry any legal weight and will not be enforced, Mayor Barrett said at a media briefing Tuesday.
"We are asking people to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, when they go indoors," Mayor Barrett said.
“This is a tough request to make, because we felt like we were getting life back to normal," he added. “We certainly hope that Milwaukeeans will embrace masks once again."
Although the mayor said masking may be effective in reducing transmission of COVID-19, he reiterated the fact that vaccinations remain the priority for the city.
“The best way to fight the spread of COVID remains, hands down, more people getting vaccinated," Barrett said.
Barrett added that his request comes as Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee see a marked increase in transmission of COVID-19 in recent days.
"I'm tired of it, you're tired of it, but we're not out of the woods," Barrett said.
The news comes the same day the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that it’s now recommending people who are vaccinated against COVID-19 wear masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the coronavirus is surging.
The CDC specifically noted people in school settings should wear face masks indoors despite vaccination status. The CDC's announcement came as the highly contagious delta variant spreads across the country.
"As a community, as a state, and as a country we must stay ahead of the curve. We cannot repeat last year," said Dr. Ben Weston with the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management and the Medical College of Wisconsin.
During a scheduled COVID-19 briefing Dr. Weston said the vaccine is effective at preventing hospitalization and death, but that does not mean you cannot get and spread the virus.
"If you get an infection, even if it's a mild infection, and even if you're not going to be hospitalized, you may very well spread that infection to other people in the community may contribute to the elevated case numbers that we're seeing," Dr. Weston said.
Dr. Weston explained the viral load in someone infected with the delta variant of coronavirus is about 1,200 times higher than the conventional variant, meaning it takes less virus to infect a person.
Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley said they will tighten mask restrictions for county employees despite their vaccine status.
Despite the pivot in mask guidance, people in Milwaukee seemed to welcome the change, though some said it was disheartening.
"I always wear my mask everywhere because like I said, you don't know who has taken the vaccine," said Atavia Goldstar.
"If it's keeping everyone protected from this virus, I think it's worth it," Anointed Williams said.
"If there's another variant out, I sure don't want to catch it. So I'll do what I can to protect myself and my friends," Cici Rube said.