Dane County residents will again be required to wear masks indoors, beginning Thursday, Aug. 19.
Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC) announced a new mask requirement on Aug. 17 for all individuals age 2 and older. The mask mandate will run until Sept. 16, and require face coverings in any enclosed building where other people, outside of household members, could be present.
“With our kids heading back to school and hospitals in other parts of the country overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases, moving from a mask recommendation to a requirement is a common sense step to prevent disease spread and protect the kids in our community who can’t get vaccinated yet,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi.
The public health department had issued a mask advisory in late July, after eliminating all public health orders related to COVID-19 on June 2. This advisory recommended, but didn’t require, masks in public places.
The new mandate was issued in response to concern over the spread of the Delta variant, a highly contagious variant of COVID-19, and rising case numbers in Dane County.
“We still believe vaccines are our best tool to protect our community,” said Janel Heinrich, Director of PHMDC. “But as cases continue to increase, requiring face coverings is an easy added layer of protection to further help keep people safe, including our youngest children not yet eligible to be vaccinated.”
“Vaccination continues to be our best path out of the pandemic,” said Jerry Halverson, MD, Chair of the Board of Health. “As variants create new challenges for our county moving forward, now is the time we must bring it home and get vaccinated.”
Public health officials still encourage people to get vaccinated, the department said in a release. More information on vaccines can be found at publichealthmdc.com/coronavirus.
The order follows updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stating that people in areas of substantial or high transmission rates of COVID-19 should wear masks indoors or in public, the order says. Madison and Dane County currently have a high transmission rate.
The mask mandate does not bring back gathering size restrictions or limited capacities at public spaces and businesses. The order does allow for people to take their mask off when eating or drinking, communicating with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, obtaining services that require mask removal, sleeping, swimming or confirming one’s identity.