PHMDC announced Wednesday that Dane County’s indoor mask mandate will remain in place until March 1. The announcement comes less than a week before the previous order continuing the mask mandate was scheduled to expire.
Similar to previous public orders, Emergency Order #7 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.”
The decision to extend the mandate follows several weeks of increased COVID-19 cases, with more than 2,000 Dane County residents testing positive in the past two weeks. Cases have since begun to decline statewide and in Dane County, with PHMDC officials explaining the community case rate has reached a plateau.
In a public statement, PHMDC Director Janelle Heinrich explained the decision to extend the mask mandate is intended to ensure the continued wellbeing of Dane County residents.
“Our job in public health is to look at the health of the community, the health of the population and to support practices and policies that have an impact across the community, so that’s how we have to make these decisions,” Heinrich said.
Heinrich expressed that it is not PHMDC’s intention to unnecessarily extend the mask mandate but stressed that the organization feels that masks are an essential element to minimizing damage to the community as officials continue to monitor the pandemic.
“I don’t think anyone wants to have an order that lasts in perpetuity, but we also know that this will be here,” Heinrich said. “Covid’s not going away, but what’s our normal rate going to look like? What’s that normal experience? We’re not quite there yet.”
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 77% of residents being fully vaccinated according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. The Wisconsin Supreme Court stated in December that it will take up a lawsuit challenging the county's mask mandate.