Dane County will allow its COVID-19 face mask order to expire at the end of this month.
Beginning March 1, Public Health Madison & Dane County will no longer require face masks in public indoor spaces “in light of steadily decreasing COVID-19 case rates and hospitalizations,” a release today said.
According to the health department, the 7-day average of cases peaked on Jan. 12 when 1,491 people were diagnosed with COVID-19. The 7-day average of hospitalizations, meanwhile, peaked on Jan. 15 with an average of 195 people hospitalized with COVID-19.
As of Monday, Feb. 14, cases had fallen to a 7-day average of 340 cases, less than 25% of peak levels and are continuing to decline. Hospitalizations are also down substantially to a 7-day average of 110, 44% lower than the peak 7-day average of hospitalizations in January caused by the Omicron variant.
“Additionally, high case levels did not translate to as high of hospitalization levels as they did before vaccination was readily available,” the release said. “Currently, an estimated 58% of Dane County residents are up to date on their vaccines, meaning a person has received all recommended COVID-19 vaccines, including boosters, when eligible.”
“Letting the face covering order expire doesn’t mean that the pandemic is over. Rather, it signals that we have made it through the Omicron surge and are entering a new stage of the pandemic,” said Public Health Madison & Dane County Director Janel Heinrich. “The most important thing you can do now is to stay up-to-date on our vaccines as they have proven to be highly effective in protecting you from becoming severely ill, ending up in the hospital, or dying from COVID-19.”
Vaccines are safe, free, and widely available throughout Dane County, including the community vaccination clinic at the Alliant Energy Center, recurring mobile clinics, local pharmacies, or via a healthcare provider, the release noted.
Anyone age 5 and older is now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, and many are eligible for boosters, with approval for children ages 6 months to 4 years old expected this spring.
“As we move forward in this pandemic, community testing and vaccination options will remain readily available to those who need them, and people are encouraged to continue to wear masks if it makes them feel more comfortable,” said Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway. “Wearing masks, especially well-fitting masks in indoor public settings, has been proven to reduce the risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19.”
Federal law will continue to require face coverings on public transportation, including public transit networks, airplanes, buses and school buses, trains, taxis, Ubers and Lyfts.
“I want to thank everyone in the community for your commitment to keeping yourselves and your neighbors safe throughout the pandemic,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. “It hasn’t been easy, that’s for sure; but your diligence, combined with the amazing work of Public Health and our many community partners, is the reason we have come through the pandemic with one of the lowest per-capita death rates in the nation. Thank you.”
“Public Health will continue case investigation efforts to prevent spread and strongly encourages everyone to stay home when sick, and follow the latest isolation and quarantine guidance to prevent transmission, which can include masking recommendations,” the release said.
“Together, healthcare workers and Public Health staff have worked tirelessly to meet the ever-changing demands of this pandemic by following the latest science and applying it to their response,” said Jerry Halverson, MD, chair of the Board of Health. “This decision is no different. Now is the time we rely on folks to make good decisions when it comes to their own health, and the health of their neighbors.”
For more information about COVID-19 in Dane County, visit publichealthmdc.com/coronavirus or follow @publichealthmdc on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.