Just one day after mask-wearing was made optional in Milwaukee Public Schools, the district announced it will return to mandating masks as cases of Covid-19 in the city rise.
MPS initially announced March 24 that masks would become optional in its schools beginning April 18. But on Tuesday, a day after the new policy took effect, MPS informed families masks would again be mandatory, saying the decision was made “after determining a significant transmission of the virus within the city of Milwaukee.”
Since MPS announced the intended end of the mask mandate, the 7-day-average of new cases in Milwaukee about doubled to an average of 47 daily cases on April 15, according to data from the City of Milwaukee Health Department.
Currently, the US is averaging about 35,000 new Covid-19 cases per day, according to data from John’s Hopkins University, though the daily rate is still about a third of what it was two months ago.
The MPS decision comes as cities across the US weigh their masking requirements, particularly on public transit, after a federal judge in Florida struck down the CDC’s mask mandate for public transportation, leaving local officials to decide whether they would enforce their own mandates.
Virtually all Covid-19 cases in the US are now caused by subvariants of the Omicron variant, according to recent data from the CDC. The BA.2 subvariant, which drove a new wave of infections across Europe, appears to be more contagious than the original Omicron variant, but does not seem to cause more severe illness.
As cities and states experience varying case levels, decisions on Covid-19 mitigation strategies have largely fallen to local officials and school districts, resulting in mixed local restrictions.
Officials in Philadelphia reinstated the city’s indoor mask mandate Monday due to quickly rising cases, making it the first major metropolitan area to do so since the widespread lifting of mandates early in the year. The new masking mandate, which includes all indoor public spaces, including schools, was brought back a little over a month after the city dropped its requirement in March.
Leaders of colleges and universities in places where cases are rising are also reconsidering masking requirements. Last week, three DC-area universities — American University, Georgetown University and Johns Hopkins University — all partially reinstated their campus mask mandates, citing rises in cases in the region. Johns Hopkins also cited travel-related cases reported since its Spring break.