Public Health Madison and Dane County announced Monday that the organization will allow the county-wide mask mandate, which has been in place for the past six and a half months, to expire on March first.
Dane County’s current mask mandate, which requires face coverings for individuals above the age of two in enclosed spaces, was initially expected to expire at the end of Nov. 2021, however, it was later expanded through several emergency orders as a result of increased case numbers during the holiday season.
Although the county mandate will end, local institutions such as businesses and schools will be able to require individuals on their property to adhere to masking guidelines.
University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Rebbeca Blank has not yet commented if students attending the university will be required to continue wearing masks while on school grounds. The current campus mask mandate is also scheduled to end March 1.
The decision to lift the mandate follows a decline in COVID-19 cases with Dane County reporting approximately 340 cases per day, a decrease from a record 1,491 cases on Jan. 12. The number of COVID-19 related hospitalizations in Dane County has also decreased in the past month with PHMDC reporting 85 fewer hospitalizations per day since mid-January.
Director of the city-county health department, Janel Heinrich, offered a statement encouraging local residents to get vaccinated and explaining that residents should continue to take precautions following the end of the mask mandate.
“Letting the face covering order expire doesn’t mean that the pandemic is over. Rather, it signals that we have made it through the omicron surge and are entering a new stage of the pandemic,” Heinrich said.
The expiration of the Dane County mask does not alter the current federal mask mandate in place until March 18 which requires individuals to be masked while riding in buses, taxis, Ubers and Lyfts.
PHMDC officials have not elaborated if the mask mandate could be reinstituted in the future. Spokesperson Morgan Finke stated "there are no additional orders planned at this time. I cannot speculate on future conditions."