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Milwaukee schools reinstate mask mandate one day after it was dropped

(MILWAUKEE) — Milwaukee Public Schools reinstated the school district’s mask mandate Tuesday after just one day of making face coverings optional for students.

In a press release, MPS cited “significant transmission” of COVID-19 within the city as the reason for the mandate returning. Starting Wednesday, all students through 12th grade and staff will be required to mask up while inside district buildings.

MPS said the district can go back to a mask-optional policy if school leaders determine risk is low for viral transmission within the city and within the school district over the next few weeks.

In late March, the MPS board voted during its monthly meeting to make masks optional starting April 18, but warned face coverings would return if cases began rising. MPS did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

As defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Milwaukee County is still considered an area with “low” community levels of COVID-19. However, the city is reporting an increase in cases. According to the City of Milwaukee Health Department, there is “substantial” transmission of the virus with 58.1 confirmed cases per 100,000 people.

The school district is not the only agency in the city to reverse its policy on masks.

Earlier Tuesday, Milwaukee County Transit System announced face coverings would be optional for riders on county buses. However, later in the day, it announced the mask mandate would remain in place “out of an abundance of caution” due to rising case counts.

Milwaukee County Chief Health Policy Advisor Dr. Ben Weston said COVID cases have risen 200% over the last three weeks from 34 new cases per day to 104 new cases per day. Additionally, he shared the test positivity rate is back over the 5% threshold for moderate transmission.

“That number is rising each day due to a combination of factors,” Weston said in a statement, according to local ABC affiliate WKOW. “The emergence of new, more transmissible variants and low vaccination rates throughout the county means we must remain vigilant to slow the spread of the disease.”

​​Data from the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management shows 61.9% of residents in the county have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, far below the national average of 77.4%.

Weston urged Milwaukee residents to continue wearing masks in high-risk settings and to get vaccinated and boosted if they haven’t already.

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