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Legislatively Speaking

Lena C. Taylor

In the last few weeks, my office has received requests to “do everything within your power to stop mask mandates.” The requests have not been limited to my constituents and they fluctuate between hostile and genuinely distressed. Often, I read them with a sense of sadness, regret and outright frustration that something so simple has been turned into such a polarizing issue. It is particularly disturbing when you understand that we are not out of the woods on COVID-19. Not even close.

There is surge in positive cases that can’t be denied. Every state in the union is watching their numbers closely, breathing a collective sigh whenever there is a dip in the numbers. Right now, most of them are holding their breath. New projections have been released from the COVID- 19 Scenario Modeling Hub, which is a consortium of researchers working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This group has been tasked with tracking the course of this pandemic and the news is not good.

We are seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases that is sending a panic through local and state health departments. The Delta variant, which is the most contagious version of the coronavirus worldwide, is said to be two to three times faster than what we have been facing. Researchers are clear that the Delta variant is detectable sooner and has about 1,000 times more copies of the virus in their respiratory tracts than those infected with the original strain. Further, early CDC data reveals 99.5% of COVID-19 deaths in the past few months were among people who weren’t vaccinated. And there is the rub.

Roughly, 100 million Americans have not taken a single COVID-19 shot who are eligible. All types of people make up that number to include 52% of Republicans, 54% of rural residents, 58% of white evangelical Christians, 59% of adults without a college degree and 59% of people aged 30 to 49. Of particular note, young people and African Americans provide a mix of reasons to forgo the vaccine. The end result of the large number of vaccine hesitant people is a perfect storm for another pandemic.

Before you scoff, pay attention to the number of countries or regions that are either in lock-down mode again, or seriously considering it. As local and state governments move from tacit steps around mask mandates and social distancing, this week saw a rise in those willing to say out loud and with conviction “put your mask back on.” It’s a small inconvenience to keep yourself and those around you safe from harm. It’s a small inconvenience to keep our businesses and schools open, our commerce moving and our transportation systems working. It’s a small inconvenience to keep yourself or others from dying. Others won’t say it, but I will “Mask up Milwaukee.”

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