Could a mask mandate return to Wisconsin?

Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 5:59 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 28, 2021 at 6:56 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - With surging coronavirus cases due to the more contagious Delta variant, health officials on all levels are now strongly advising all people wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status.

The current directive on masks is not a mandate, but a strong recommendation and suggested guideline to follow.

The recommendations are focused on areas with high infection rates according to CDC metrics. The latest CDC data shows most of Wisconsin is in the clear but there are at least a dozen counties at “substantial” or “high” infection rates.

With the growing threat of the Delta variant, could Wisconsinites expect another statewide mask mandate in the future? Wednesday, officials with the Wisconsin Dept. of Health Services said it’s not likely.

“As many are aware., the Supreme Court has issued findings that limit the authority of DHS to issue mandates,” said DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk.

The previous state mask mandate was struck down after the Republican-controlled Legislature argued that neither Gov. Evers, nor DHS had the authority to issue such mandate. The high court later upheld that decision and the mask mandate was thrown out.

Now, decisions on mask mandates are left up to those on the local level. DHS officials say they will continue to work with those local health partners to advise such decisions moving forward, if necessary.

On Tuesday, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said if people take current advisories seriously, there should be no need for mandates.

Health officials continue to stress vaccination as the best tool to fight the virus.

“What I want people to remember is the solution to this isn’t necessarily mandates for more masks. The solution to this situation with this variant is vaccine,” said Willems Van Dijk.

She points out that when mask mandates were previously in place, it was the best option for protection because we did not have the vaccine available. Now that we do, DHS encourages anyone who has not been vaccinated to do so as soon as possible and for all people to mask up when around others outside of your household.

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