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Health Officials Urge Milwaukeeans To Celebrate Holidays Virtually

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As holidays approach, Milwaukee city and county health officials recommend celebrating virtually to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

It’s been just more than nine months since the city of Milwaukee’s first coronavirus case was announced. Tuesday afternoon city and county officials reported a staggering total of 77,988 cases with 787 deaths.

Eyes and hopes are increasingly riveted on the vaccines — first from Pfizer and soon from Moderna — making their way around the country.

But Dr. Ben Weston, director of medical services for Milwaukee County’s Office of Emergency Management, said it will likely be late spring or early summer of next year before the vaccine reaches the general public.

First, it’s going to people including health care workers and other high-risk groups.

“Everybody’s answer would be a guess, honestly, from the highest level of government on down; mass production like this of something new, I’m sure there will be hiccups along the way and learning points as there have been throughout this pandemic,” said Weston. “But I think spring to early summer is a reasonable estimate.”

The director of the Interfaith Conference of Great Milwaukee, Pardeep Kaleka, joined Weston for the city and county news briefing Tuesday. With a flurry of religious holidays from multiple denominations this time of year, Kaleka urged people to rethink their traditional holiday celebrations.

“Just as before, we encourage social distancing, wearing masks, sanitizing, limiting gatherings and utilizing virtual gatherings, as opposed to in-person gatherings. We understand how difficult this year has already been,” continued Kaleka. “We are asking you to hold on to hope for 2021 as we pray for the health and well-being of all Wisconsinites, everyone in the United States and the world.”

Convincing people to stick to virtual gatherings is one challenge for public safety officials. Another is on the horizon. Some people are resisting being vaccinated, even before the option is widely available.

Kaleka asked people to trust the science.

“The urgency of this vaccine coming out is not due to a rushing in the process itself, but the urgency of nearly 2 million people worldwide being dead, that we’re approaching right now. So the urgency really has to do with the amount of casualties that we’re seeing the people getting sick and the urgency to get them back to health,” he said.

Kaleka said he’ll be first in line when the vaccine is ready for public distribution.

Susan is WUWM's environmental reporter.
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