Dane Co., most of southern Wisconsin now past CDC’s mask guidance threshold

CDC Level of Community Transmission Map, on July 30, 2021.
CDC Level of Community Transmission Map, on July 30, 2021.(CDC)
Published: Jul. 30, 2021 at 3:16 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A much larger swathe of southern Wisconsin, including Madison and Dane Co., now falls under the federal recommendations that nearly everyone – regardless of vaccination status – wear a mask when at indoor gatherings.

As Dane Co. health officials predicted Thursday, the county crossed into the ‘substantial’ level of COVID-19 community transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention metrics. On Tuesday, the federal agency asked people living in a county where transmission was considered ‘substantial’ or more-severe ‘high’ to wear a mask at indoor public and private events.

Seeing cases on the rise, Public Health Madison & Dane Co. officials had not waited until their county turned orange on the CDC map, which indicates a substantial rating, to issue its own updated recommendations. Shortly after the federal guidance came earlier this week, PHMDC sounded the alarms about the rising rates and urged people to begin masking up indoors immediately.

Both the federal and local advisories, as well as one issued Wednesday by the Dept. of Health Services, stop short of imposing a mandate. Instead, their guidance remain recommendations, albeit ones health officials are urgently making. In Tuesday’s statement, PHMDC included a link where businesses that wish to impose their own mask requirement can download ‘masks required’ signs.


Five additional counites in southern Wisconsin were added to the substantial list, resulting in the entire southeastern portion of the state now fall into one of the two highest categories. The previous day, both Rock Co. and Dodge Co., turned orange and health officials in Janesville issued their own recommendations about wearing masks.

As of Friday, the following southern Wisconsin counties ranked substantial or high (high is in bold):

  • Columbia Co.
  • Dane Co.
  • Dodge Co.
  • Jefferson Co.
  • Kenosha Co.
  • Milwaukee Co.
  • Ozaukee Co.
  • Racine Co.
  • Rock Co.
  • Sauk Co.
  • Walworth Co.
  • Washington Co.
  • Waukesha Co.

The state’s largest county, Milwaukee, remains categorized as high and has been joined in that ranking by two of its neighbors, Ozaukee and Waukesha. In addition to those three counties, Buffalo Co., Iron Co., and Pepin Co. also rated in the high category.

Conversely, in the southwestern corner of the state, Grant Co. fell into the low transmission rate classification. Another county that saw its transmission rate fall was Adams Co. which slipped from being considered high on Thursday to medium the next day.

The sharp rise in counties falling under the CDC’s mask recommendations mirror the sharp rise in new COVID-19 cases across the state. On Friday, the state topped 1,000 new cases for the first time in months, posting the highest single day total since early February.

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