Public Health Madison & Dane County announced its intention to issue Face Covering Emergency Order #6 on Jan. 3, extending the county-wide indoor mask mandate until Feb. 1, 2022.
Similar to previous public orders, Emergency Order #6 requires face coverings for individuals above the age of two “in any enclosed space open to the public where other people, except for members of the person’s household or living unit are present [and when] driving or riding in any form of public transportation.”
In a public statement, PHMDC explained that the decision to extend the mask mandate comes as a result of increased hospitalization rates and concerns regarding the new omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus.
“We saw the impact a more infectious variant of COVID-19 could have in our community when the Delta variant pushed case rates higher across the state and the country,” said Janel Heinrich, director of PHMDC. “As the state warns us of an Omicron surge that will overwhelm an already strained healthcare system, we must continue to equip ourselves in every way possible to slow the spread.”
Dane County is the only county in Wisconsin which currently has a mask mandate despite having the highest rate of vaccination in the state with 72.9% of residents being fully vaccinated according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. The Wisconsin Supreme Court stated Monday that it will take up a lawsuit challenging the county's mask mandate.
Case averages for Dane County in December have been at their highest levels in 2021 with 255 people testing positive per day on average, and 2,724 confirmed or probable cases being reported in the past week. Dane County is currently ranked as having the highest transmission classification by the CDC, a classification shared by all other counties in Wisconsin.
The announcement of Emergency Order #6 follows previous statements made by PHMDC officials implying that they did not intend to continue the mask mandate past Nov. 27.
Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway issued a statement supporting the county health department’s extension of the mask mandate and encouraged Madison residents to adhere to social distancing and vaccine guidelines.
“The best strategy we have to tackle this virus includes creating layers of protection,” Rhodes-Conway stated. “First, get boosted or vaccinated, then wear a mask indoors, wash your hands and keep your distance. The more layers the better.”
In a public statement, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi thanked Dane County residents for their continued cooperation regarding COVID-19 safety measures.
“As we ask you to continue masking-up indoors, I want to thank everyone for adhering to these guidelines,” Parisi said. “Your actions — masking and getting vaccinated — are helping to prevent greater illness and suffering. It’s been a long haul for all of us, and I appreciate your efforts to help keep everyone safer.”