MaskUpMKE Partners with The Hop to Help Keep Community Safe

The entire transcript of the press conference follows.

Mayor Barrett:

I am very pleased to be with you this morning. I’m joined by Doctor Jeanette Kowalik, who is our Commissioner of Health, Loretta Kryshak from Rebel Converting, who is a MaskUpMKE co-founder, Nicole Angresano from United Way who’s brought in funding for MaskUp and helping pay for the public service announcement that we will be launching today, and Judge Mosley from our municipal court you’ve been hearing about in a lot of these activities.

Mayor Barrett:

I want to begin by saying thank you all for being here this morning. We recognize that this is not the summer that we envisioned. Coming out of the end of 2019, I was thinking a lot about how for four consecutive years, we had seen a drop in our homicide and violent crime rate here in the City of Milwaukee. We’re celebrating that over the past 10 years, we had added 20,000 jobs to our economy. We were looking forward to the Bucks playing at Fiserv Forum winning the NBA Championship, and we were looking at hosting for the first time in our city’s history a major political party convention.

Mayor Tom Barrett

Mayor Barrett:

I was riding pretty high and I was thinking, “What could possibly go wrong?” Well, as we all know, just about everything could go wrong. So, this is not the summer that we contemplate. It was the DNC in particular, we know that that did not materialize the way we hoped, but there is still a spotlight on our city, and there still is an obligation and an opportunity for us to make steps so that we can defeat this pandemic.

Mayor Barrett:

Right now, the most important thing we can do as a city is to unite around a common goal of defeating this virus and bringing our economy back to where it should be. There are too many people who have lost their jobs or have had their hours reduced. There are too many people who have lost or are in danger of losing their homes. There are too many people who are facing uncertainty as we prepare for the school year.

Mayor Barrett:

What we have learned is that by working together that we can be most effective. One of the things that we can do in a patriotic sense, in a community sense is to wear our masks when interacting with other people. Building a stronger partnership with MaskUpMKE then is an obvious but critical step.

Mayor Barrett:

We had pictured our streetcars being jam-packed with convention-goers this week. Even as visitors and residents alike are making the same choice to stay home whenever possible, The Hop is still an incredible asset to our community. Not only are we still meeting critical transportation needs for residents along our route providing them a safe and free means to access essential jobs and services like grocery stores and pharmacies, but The Hop remains a very visible part of our downtown landscape. When we have a message such as this, it is so important for people to see, to understand, and to rally around. The Hop offers an impactful way, a very impactful way for us to communicate.

Mayor Barrett:

The very creative group at MaskUpMKE has been doing tremendous work to help fight this virus. They’ve built an unbelievable coalition of Milwaukee leaders, businesses, and community organizations, and help united everyone around a common goal. They are truly making a difference and saving lives both through their generosity in making free masks available throughout our community and in making this simple act of masking up, something we can all rally behind.

Mayor Barrett:

The City of Milwaukee is proud to be a partner in this work. Today, we’re also proud to be donating one of our streetcars to make the Mask Up message even more visible. Every member of our community can play a vital role in stopping the spread of the virus by wearing a mask. Now, The Hop is officially masked up as well. Please join me in welcoming our masked up Hop vehicle.

The Hop MaskUpMKE

Mayor Barrett:

Now, please join me in welcoming our Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik, commissioner.

Jeanette Kowalik:

Wow. Thanks Mayor Barrett and thanks to our Department of Public Works, Commissioner Polenske for helping to make this happen. Heather Perkins, Rebel, so many partners have come together to really help provide access to masks in our community at a time where access to masks was very, very compromised due to the supply change. So early on, the MaskUpMKE initiative was developed.

Jeanette Kowalik

Jeanette Kowalik:

I remember doing a Zoom press kickoff in my office on April 6. So if you think about it now, we’re in August and that was in April. Just between April and now, MaskUpMKE has really spread like wildfire. Over 200 million kids have heard between now and then. So, the power of social media and engaging our community in our area here in Milwaukee.

Jeanette Kowalik:

So, the importance of masks cannot be underscored. We have to continue to promote mask-wearing. We now have an ordinance in the City of Milwaukee that took effect July 16th. Just to give you a sense of that ordinance on what impact it’s made on the City of Milwaukee’s COVID-19 Disease partnership.

Jeanette Kowalik:

At that point in time, our positivity was at the 9% range, kind of taking us to 10%. Now, we’re in the low settings. So, just between right now and up, we’ve made great progress and we contributed many of the progress or the gains that we made to wearing masks.

Jeanette Kowalik:

Also at the state level, Governor Evers making sure that the state was able to move ahead with a mask order. So, now that we have some cohesion and support for wearing masks just to lay in public, business owners, as kids, and parents, and teachers, are preparing for various types of school re-openings, this is extremely important to support and embrace wearing masks.

Jeanette Kowalik:

We’re going to have to do this for a while. As you can see, I’ve invested in some fancy schmancy masks myself. So, my recommendation is always to have fun with whatever is going on, no matter how bleak it may seem, just to embrace doing it in a way that kind of making any access or increase our ability to do it in a way that will support instead of treating it like a chore.

Jeanette Kowalik:

So again, wearing mask is important. Cloth masks are very important that we’re able to wash those after each use. The surgical or paper masks should only be used at one point in time and then discarded and replaced. To a certain point, paper masks are great for the summertime. I know I can see the number of questions about comfort and heat in our masks in the summer. So, I’m just putting it out there that I was promoting if you can have a paper or surgical mask is easier for the summertime.

Jeanette Kowalik:

Then again, just to get all we can do right now is wear a mask not just for ourselves but for our community. So, thanks to Milwaukee Health Department for support and donating our community with the masks and of course MaskUpMKE for providing masks when we had very little access to our entire community.

Jeanette Kowalik:

So next I’ll introduce, Loretta Kryshak who has been involved with MaskUpMKE from the start.

Loretta Kryshak:

Thank you. Five months ago, our nation had severe shortage of face masks. Rebel Converting realized that we could donate our material to produce millions of masks for first responders, healthcare workers, caregivers, and those in need. It has been officially confirmed that wearing a face mask can reduce the spread of COVID-19. With our partners we started a call to action and called it MaskUpMKE.

Loretta Kryshak Co-Founder MaskUp MKE

Loretta Kryshak:

Today, we have a new partner, the Milwaukee Hop. It will be joining us in educating and helping provide face masks to the public. The Hop’s traveling trolleys are spreading the news, not the virus with MaskUp Milwaukee advertisement and offering free face masks to everyone on board. It’s my pleasure now to introduce our next speaker, one of our largest supporters, Nicole from United Way.

Loretta Kryshak:

First, please watch our newest public service announcement about the importance of wearing a face mask. I hope you enjoy it. Thank you.

Speaker 4:

Now more than ever.

Speaker 5:

[foreign language 00:10:40]

Judge Derek Mosley:

Now more than ever.

Speaker 7:

It’s important to wear a mask.

Speaker 8:

[foreign language 00:10:42].

Judge Derek Mosley:

It is essential to wear a mask.

Speaker 4:

MaskUpMKE.

Speaker 5:

MaskUpMKE.

Judge Derek Mosley:

MaskUpMKE.

Nicole Angresano:

The foggy glasses situation is really annoying. I had to clear it out here for a little bit, but I don’t have notes, so it’s okay. I’m really just here to express gratitude. To express gratitude for this diverse partnership, to express gratitude for the city’s health department, for Rebel. I also want to give a shout out.

Nicole Angresano

Nicole Angresano:

Back in March, I remember the last day in my office was March 13th. Before I had even left that day, Harley Davidson had provided a grant to make sure we were able to purchase masks for nonprofit organizations. Those organizations that are still open, food pantries, homeless shelters, some early childhood education centers that are going to work every single day at personal risk of their staff, and their students, and their clients. So grateful, grateful for the corporate leadership in this community.

Nicole Angresano:

Our friends at Rebel didn’t take nearly enough credit for what they had done. Lots of folks are masked up right now. We’re hearing about it more. There’s some photo contests. We’re all getting, but no one is as fashionable as Dr. K, but we’re all doing our best.

Nicole Angresano:

They were early adopters. They didn’t wait to see what the trend was going to be. They didn’t wait to see how the political climate was going to shift. They knew they had a product and a process that they could use to keep people safe and they just did it.

Nicole Angresano:

I am tremendously proud of the number of Milwaukee and the surrounding county community members that assembled these masks, millions, literally millions of masks that have gone out the door that your neighbors, and friends, and family members put together themselves. This has been an extraordinary effort since day one, and I’m very, very grateful that United Way has been able to play a small part in it.

Nicole Angresano:

I also want to talk just briefly. I think sometimes we’re getting bogged down a lot in the numbers. What are the rates, the percentages? Folks don’t necessarily all agree with the metrics, but here’s the thing. At the end of those metrics, for every one of those metrics for those positive tests, that’s a person. That’s a neighbor, or a sibling, or a spouse, or a parent who has tested positive for Covid.

Nicole Angresano:

I think we need to humanize this a little bit more, and there’s no one more qualified to do that than our next speaker. Someone who needs very little introduction. He is quite frankly, one of Milwaukee’s best. He’s from Chicago, but now we claim him. He is a person of integrity and passion and has shared his story publicly in a way that I think really ultimately will save lives. With that, I want to welcome to the podium the phenomenal Judge Derek Mosley.

Judge Derek Mosley:

Hello everyone. Can everybody hear me? I just want to comment, just say something real briefly. When I was in the hospital in an ICU unit fighting Covid, the one thing I remember the most about it is how lonely it was, isolation and loneliness. That isolation and loneliness were interrupted briefly by a total stranger who would come into the room completely guarded with a PPE, come in, and be duty-bound to take care of me.

Judge Mosely

Judge Derek Mosley:

So, I think about that person and the fact that they’re missing their families, their spouses, their families, their children, but still coming to work every day to take care of people who are sick like I was. So, I wear my mask for them because to me, my mask says, “I love this city. I love this community.” It tells a stranger, “Hey, stranger, I got your back. So, I need you to have my back.” So, I want to end just by saying MaskUp Milwaukee, it surely makes the difference. Thank you everybody for your time.

Judge Derek Mosley:

Each day, my breath got shorter, and shorter, and shorter. Until by the time I was in the emergency room, I was just taking little breaths like this just to be able to keep going. Doctor came into my room and told me that I’m at a crossroads. The treatment, people either get better or they just bottom out.

Judge Derek Mosley:

I was lying in the bed, a nurse came in and handed me an iPad. There was my family. The first time I had seen them since I’ve been admitted into the hospital. That little push gave me a lot of more motivation to fight. I made it through the night, and I didn’t have to be ventilated the next morning.

Judge Derek Mosley:

The one thing I did while I was in the ICU was I bonded with a number of nurses that came through to the ICU. I wear the mask for them because they’re on the front lines every day, putting their lives at risk. So, I wear my mask for them.

Judge Derek Mosley:

I was in ICU. A number of people who also were in the ICU passed away. There are no visitors on Covid floor. So, each and every one of those people who passed away, passed away alone. Nobody wants to die alone. Please wear your mask.

Speaker 10:

Good job guys.