Another 500,000 N95 masks are handed out in Milwaukee to battle COVID-19 surge
((Update: The Milwaukee Health Department says as of 4:00 p.m. Friday, all N95 masks in supply have been distributed to the Milwaukee community.))
The Milwaukee Health Department said people are again picking up hundreds of thousands of free, higher-quality COVID-19 masks that the state of Wisconsin sent to the City of Milwaukee late this week.
This comes after 500,000 N95 masks were distributed earlier this week.
Late Thursday morning, outside the city's Menomonee Valley drive-through clinic, a man who gave his name as Bob picked up the standard allotment of 20 masks. The N95 masks are made of several layers of woven plastic. Bob said he's ready to step away from cloth and paper masks.
"I do believe that cloth masks are passé. It's time to get on with something else and obviously, these are superior," Bob said.
A man who gave his name as Kevin said the fast-spreading omicron variant of the coronavirus sold him on getting the N95 masks.
"Even though I work at home, even when I'm out...just on errands and stuff, I think it's the best way to go," Kevin said.
The N95 masks were also available for several hours Thursday at the City of Milwaukee libraries. Outside the Mitchell Street Branch, a woman who gave her name as Shaquajah said she was glad to get the better face covering.
"I was in EMT school, and they teach you that these are more effective — like if somebody sneezes, it won't go on to the next person. It all stays in the mask," she said.
Another woman, who gave her name as Ada, said she picked up the N95 masks to protect her family better, though she also counts on her religious beliefs.
"I believe more in the Lord, and he protects us in the blood of Jesus. So we'll be protected by that," Ada said.
The Milwaukee Health Department said the libraries ran out of masks by early afternoon. Department official Nick Tomaro said the supply might be going faster because the city dropped a more time-consuming plan to repackage the masks and give out fewer per household.
"I'm just being upfront that the ability to split these up into individual packaging—we had to make a judgment call on what was best at this point. Trying to get these out into the public as fast as possible is the judgment call we made," Tomaro said.
Tomaro said the City of Milwaukee handing out one million higher-quality COVID-19 masks in a week is a positive thing.