With increasing numbers of COVID-19 infections, particularly among children, Public Heath Madison and Dane County has announced it will issue another mask order Nov. 27, at the time when the current order expires.

“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.”

The new order expires Jan. 3.

According to a news release from the public health department, Dane County has had consistently lower levels of disease than almost all other Wisconsin counties due to high vaccination rates and masking policies, but is still classified as high transmission as defined by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. On Nov. 19, the 7-day average of people testing positive in Dane County was 163 (rate of 29.8 per 100,000); in Wisconsin, that number was 3,068 (rate of 52.5 per 100,000).

All adults who received Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are now eligible to receive their booster dose at least 6 months after they received their second dose. People who got the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine are also eligible for a booster dose of any of the available COVID-19 vaccines. On Nov. 22, 28% of all Dane County adults who received their initial series had received their booster.

“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 new health order is slightly different from previous ones. It allows people to remove their masks if all individuals in an enclosed space are fully vaccinated. People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s or Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine or two weeks after their first dose of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine.

“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.”

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