Milwaukee County’s Emergency Management Medical Director Says We Need to Keep Social Distancing

“It’s not a time to let up on social distancing.”

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Milwaukee County has begun to see a decrease in COVID-19 cases, but minority communities are disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

Milwaukee County’s Emergency Management Medical Director Ben Weston joined Carole Nicksin, Milwaukee Magazine editor and publisher, for a livestream lunch Thursday to discuss coronavirus updates.

Weston said the number of new positive cases per day has decreased this week, but it’s too early to tell if this trend will continue. Check the Milwaukee County Dashboard for up-to-date statistics about coronavirus cases, deaths and hospital resources.

“I think we’re seeing some positive changes,” Weston said. “We’re starting to move in the right direction, but it’s a time to continue with social distancing.” 

Weston said that in Milwaukee, a black person is five times more likely to die from COVID-19 than a white person. In 2019, Milwaukee County declared racism a public health crisis, and the pandemic has emphasized this health disparity. Weston said that the county aims to be as transparent as possible in reporting COVID-19 statistics.

“We want to look at everything through a racial equity lens, and this is no different,” Weston said.

Despite the recent decrease in cases, Weston emphasized the continued importance of social distancing. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines now recommend people wear cloth masks in situations where social distancing is difficult — the grocery store, for example. However, cloth masks only offer slight protection and cannot replace social distancing. 

There are still many unknowns about the coronavirus, but Weston said it could be at least a few months before we see a return to normal life. For now, we should continue doing everything we can to flatten the curve. 

“It’s not a time to let up on social distancing,” Weston said. “It’s a time to persevere, to buckle down and to help get through this.”

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Elizabeth Johnson is an editorial intern at Milwaukee Magazine and a journalism major at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.