Public Health Madison & Dane County has changed course on eliminating mandatory masking indoors, by extending its mask mandate until next year.
The health department announced in a release on Nov. 23 that its indoor mask mandate will continue until Jan. 3, 2022. Dane County had announced in October that it planned to eliminate mandatory masking on Nov. 27, when its latest public health order was set to expire.
Health department officials cite high case numbers, the newly-increased accessibility to booster shots and upcoming holidays as reasons for continuing the mandate.
“We had hoped to not issue any more face covering orders but in the last three weeks, our rate of disease in the community has nearly doubled, the rate among children is at an all-time high and in other parts of the state, cases are even higher,” said Janel Heinrich, Director of Public Health Madison & Dane County. “With the holiday travel season upon us, this Order provides more time for those who are newly eligible to get their first and second doses and for more adults to get booster doses.”
All people aged two and older will be required to wear a face covering indoors in public. The new order does allow people to remove their masks “if all individuals in an enclosed space are fully vaccinated,” the release said.
This order, like previous ones, allows for people to remove their masks when eating or drinking, communicating with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, obtaining services like dental work, swimming, sleeping or actively playing a wind instrument with a fabric bell cover.
The release said that Dane County is classified as a high transmission area by the Centers for Disease Control, and was seeing increased positive test results.
“Keeping a mask order as an added layer of protection is a smart decision for our county,” said Jerry Halverson, MD, Chair of the Board of Health. “Families may soon venture outside of Dane County for the holidays and will likely encounter areas with lower vaccination rates, so keeping masks on for a little bit longer provides a circle of protection for those who are still in the process of becoming fully vaccinated.”
“The best path forward throughout this pandemic has always been and continues to be vaccination, with boosters now approved for all adults increasing the existing immunity,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. “Because we know how effective the vaccine is at preventing severe illness and death, this Order takes that into account, by providing an exception for vaccinated individuals.”
The county recently opened up access to Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine boosters to all adults in the county who had previously received two vaccine shots.
People are considered fully-vaccinated, the release clarified, two weeks after they have received the two-shot series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after receiving one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Receiving a booster does not impact your status as vaccinated or not.