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Dane County reverses course, extends mask mandate to January — with exceptions for vaccinated


Public Health Madison & Dane County has announced that it will extend its mask mandate, requiring face coverings among people ages two and older when in most enclosed spaces open to the public where other people are present, except when everyone in an enclosed space is fully vaccinated. The new order will expire on January 3, 2022.

“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,” Janel Heinrich, Director of Public Health Madison & Dane County, said in a written statement. “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.”

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 November 19, the seven-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).

“The landscape of COVID continues to evolve, and we are at a point in this pandemic where it’s likely that COVID will keep spreading in our communities for years, like the flu does; cases may go up and down, but will never completely go away,” Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said in a statement. “Vaccines are the best tool we have to prevent COVID illness and severe outcomes, but masks, physical distancing, and other tools provide an added layer of protection.”

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 November 22, 28 percent 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,” Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said in a satement. “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 Order mirrors previous face covering orders; however, it now 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.”