Are your kids heading to summer camp or school? County leaders urge masking

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- As parents are thinking about getting their children involved with camps and other summer activities, county leaders are asking them to keep wearing masks.

Milwaukee County leaders stressed the keeping mask requirements in place, as young children are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

"We continue to see cases throughout the community in workplaces, in schools. Just this week in my community, we investigated a case that attended a high school graduation was in fact one of the graduates," said Darren Rausch, health officer/director for the Greenfield Health Department.

Dr. Ben Weston, director of medical services for the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management, said masking is less critical outside in the open air where transmission is lower, but that is not the case indoors.

"In the indoor setting, however, of summer school, indoor summer recreational activities and other summer programs -- masking among children remains an important issue," Weston said.

At Camp Minikani in Hubertus, which is operated by the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee, every overnight camper and day camper will be tested both with a PCR and antigen test when they arrive. The first session starts on June 20.

The camp also rented an open air tent where campers will be able to dine together outside, instead of the typical indoor dining.

"I think it's very, very important -- especially right now in this year -- to get kids outside, to be able to reconnect with friends. There's nothing better than camp that builds friendships amongst kids," said Eli Fyksen, executive director of Camp Minikani.

Campers will be required to wear masks when they're indoors with other campers that aren't in their cabin group.

Ebenezer Child Care, which has multiple locations in the Milwaukee County area, also operates multiple summer programs. Children aged 3 and up will be required to wear masks along with staff and parents.

"The kids are going to have a lot of fun, but they're going to be safe. And we're doing everything that we can to keep everybody healthy and to prevent the spread of COVID," said Ann McKillip, the center coordinator for Ebenezer’s Child Care Center in Oak Creek.

McKillip said Ebenezer facilities are following guidance from the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families.

"We're not allowing families into the classroom. Families can come to the door and drop off their child, and then pick their child up," she said.

Dr. Weston laid out these six facts as it relates to masking for children: 

"Fact No. 1: Not a single child under the age of 12 has been vaccinated against COVID-19."

"Fact No. 2: While acute disease is mild in children, long-term effects of this virus on a child's lung capacity, heart function and immune system -- these are largely unknown. And based on the history of other viruses and understanding of COVID-19, it's far more likely that a child would have detrimental long-term effects from the virus than from any future authorized vaccine for those age groups."

"Fact No. 3: Cloth masks are effective when everyone who is unvaccinated in an indoor environment is wearing them and are in fact more protective of those around the wearer than the person wearing it themselves. Therefore saying that if a kid is concerned about COVID, they can wear a mask while their children don't have to is an ineffective and ultimately misguided strategy."

"Fact No. 4: We now have the delta strain of COVID-19. This is the one that caused so much illness and death in India, and it's beginning to circulate more and more widely in the United States. This is far more contagious than the previous UK strain and certainly far more than the previous strains in the United States."

"Fact No. 5: Among childhood age groups in Milwaukee County right now, the elementary school age group of 5 to 11-year-olds has more than twice the positivity rate as compared to our general population in the county. And in fact, children in our community currently have a higher positivity rate than any other age group."

"Fact No. 6: The CDC, based on those previous facts, recommends universal -- that's their word: 'universal' -- use of masks for children. The change in CDC guidance around masks was for vaccinated individuals, not for children under 12 who are not yet able to be vaccinated."

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