PHMDC mum on Dane Co. mask mandate extension, possible changes

The current order expires in less than two weeks.
(FILE)(Source: WAVE 3 News)
Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 11:33 AM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - With Dane Co. nearing a new milestone for total number of cases and the number of positive tests being reported showing little sign of dropping from their current record high levels, Public Health Madison and Dane Co. officials will soon have to face a decision regarding what to do with their ongoing mask mandate.

The current emergency order requiring face coverings in enclosed public areas unless everyone in the room is vaccinated is scheduled to end on the first day of February, less than two weeks from Wednesday. A PHMDC spokesperson told NBC15 News that the agency had nothing to share about a possible extension at this time nor did she comment on .

PHMDC announced the latest order on Dec. 20, exactly two weeks before the then-current order’s Jan. 3 expiration date. At the time the extension was announced, the county averaged 296 positive tests per day for the preceding week, according to the most recent numbers.

It’s now more than four times as high. The agency’s most recent report puts that the seven-day rolling average at 1,322 cases per day.

The current rolling average is also more than six times higher than it was in November when PHMDC modified the order that lifted the requirement that a room full of vaccinated people would not need to wear masks.

Public Health Madison & Dane Co. COVID-19 dashboard on Jan. 19, 2022.
Public Health Madison & Dane Co. COVID-19 dashboard on Jan. 19, 2022.(Public Health Madison & Dane Co.)

Like every other county in Wisconsin, Dane Co. also sits well above the Dept. of Health Services threshold for critical case activity, the highest level on the state agency’s scale. To be considered ‘critical’ a region must have a case burden of at least 1,000 cases per 100,000 residents. In the latest update, Dane County’s rate sat at 1,284.8 cases per 100,000 residents, which is still half that of the 2,490-figure reported statewide.

Dept. of Health Services Disease Activity tracker on Jan. 18, 2022.
Dept. of Health Services Disease Activity tracker on Jan. 18, 2022.(Dept. of Health Services)

The Current Order

The ongoing order requires nearly everyone over 2 years old to wear a face covering or mask when inside an enclosed public space where other people, except for members of the person’s own household or living unit are present.

Other exemptions include allowing for masks to be removed when eating or drinking, when talking to someone hard of hearing, or during certain types of performances, among other situations. It also maintains the carve out for enclosed public spaces in which everyone in the room is vaccinated.

Health officials and community leaders urge residents to get vaccinated or, if they have done so, get a booster shot as soon as they become eligible. The county continues to lead the state in vaccination rates, with more than eight in 10 people who live in the county having received at least their first dose of one of the vaccines.

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