MPS goes mask optional for at least a week as COVID level drops

·2 min read
Teacher Raymond Roberts leads a vocal music class Monday at Milwaukee High School of the Arts Aug. 15, the first day of school for the 1,100 students who attend the school.
Teacher Raymond Roberts leads a vocal music class Monday at Milwaukee High School of the Arts Aug. 15, the first day of school for the 1,100 students who attend the school.

Masks will be optional in Milwaukee Public Schools for at least a week, after the CDC changed Milwaukee County's COVID rating from "high" to "medium," the district announced Friday morning.

It will be the longest period without a mask requirement since MPS schools have been open during the pandemic. The policy will be reevaluated every Thursday night based on the CDC rating.

School started Monday for over 20,000 MPS students, with masks required because of a higher COVID level. Other students start Sept. 6.

MPS had required masks constantly through the pandemic until this past April, when the school board gave control to Superintendent Keith Posley. Students had one day without the requirement — April 19 — before Posley reinstated it as COVID levels rose.

Going forward, MPS staff and students will be required to mask up whenever the CDC puts Milwaukee County in the "high" category — based on the number of COVID cases and hospital usage.

The CDC data show Milwaukee County just barely fell out of the high category, with about 195 known COVID cases and 14 hospital admissions for COVID per 100,000 residents in the past week. COVID patients comprised about 5% of staffed inpatient beds in the county, the data show.

If the county had seen five additional COVID cases per 100,000 residents, it would have been in the high category.

The county is considered at a "high" level of COVID when any of the following are true for a one-week period:

  • There are 200 or more new COVID cases per 100,000 residents, and hospital admissions hit either of these levels:

    • 10 or more new COVID patients admitted to the hospital for every 100,000 residents

    • 10% or more of staffed inpatient hospital beds in the county are occupied by COVID patients

  • COVID case counts are lower, but hospital admissions hit either of these levels:

    • 20 or more new COVID patients admitted to the hospital for every 100,000 residents

    • 15% or more of staffed inpatient hospital beds in the county are occupied by COVID patients.

Contact Rory Linnane at rory.linnane@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter at @RoryLinnane

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: MPS drops mask requirement, goes optional based on CDC COVID level