Dane Co. keeps mask mandate until order expires on June 2; no new order expected

Health officials do no expect to issue a new order
Published: May. 18, 2021 at 12:37 PM CDT|Updated: May. 18, 2021 at 6:05 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - As other communities revisit their COVID-19-related restrictions in light of changing federal guidance, Dane Co. health officials opt to stay the course. On Tuesday, Public Health Madison & Dane Co. indicated the current health order, which is set to expire on June 2, would remain unchanged until that time.

After it expires, however, health officials do not expect to issue a new one, letting all of the requirements surrounding wearing face coverings and indoor gathering limits and mandated safety protocols slip to recommendations, at which time businesses and organizations can set their own policies.

“There may be people and businesses out there who still want mask policies in place after the orders end as masks still provide an additional layer of protection,” Co. Executive Joe Parisi said in a statement announcing the policy. “We recommend that businesses take this time to consider next steps, while reminding patrons of the current order which remains in place.”

The current order requires face coverings for most individuals over five years old when they are in enclosed spaces with people who are not members of their household, when they are about to go into such facilities, or when they are driving with people who live elsewhere. It does provide exceptions for eating, swimming, and other circumstances as well as for those who are medically incapable of wearing a mask.

The mask mandate will change on June 2nd.

Tuesday’s announcement comes four days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined fully vaccinated people could safely go without masks in most cases. The federal agencies change spurred other local health agencies to end their mask mandates.

Rock County’s Public Health Officer Katrina Harwood signed a new order ending the mask mandate on Friday explaining that the change comes in light of new CDC guidance that people who are fully vaccinated can safely resume normal activities and are less likely to spread coronavirus to others. Beloit’s City Council also voted on Monday night to end its mask and social distancing requirements.

Several businesses, too, have stopped requiring masks in their stores, provided there are no state or local regulations mandating face coverings. With Dane County’s order still in effect, masks will still be required at Costco, Hy-Vee, Target, Walmart, and other stores that have ended the policy elsewhere.

The Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce celebrated the coming end of coronavrius restrictions, calling it “an extraordinary step in the right direction and further evidence that vaccines are safe and effective against COVID-19.”

The organization also complimented businesses in the county for their efforts in implementing safety protocols to prevent the spread of coronavirus, improving workspaces to protect their employees, and offering them encouragement to get vaccinated.

“Their efforts are a significant reason why Dane County is seeing its lowest case counts in months and becoming a state and national leader in vaccination rate,” the agency said, adding that Tuesday’s announcement was a major step toward a new normal.

PHMDC officials credited the high percentage of people who are vaccinated in the county also factored into PHMDC’s decision making. A little less than two-thirds of the county’s residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and more than half are fully vaccinated. The 65 and older population has also soared in terms of vaccinations, with 95% of people in this age group having received at least one dose.

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway explained the extra two weeks before Dane Co. ended its mask mandate would provide the county with more time to vaccinate the newly eligible children between the ages of 12-15 years old.

Already, nearly one in six children in that age group have received at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine, the only one available to them. That is more than triple the statewide rate.

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