Some Madison businesses will continue to require masks after Dane County’s mandate expires Tuesday, March 1.
Concerns about a premature expiration and risks for customers who are immunocompromised or cannot get vaccinated have prompted business owners to implement their own mask requirement.
Orange Tree, a gift shop located on Monroe street, will still require staff and shoppers to wear masks, said co-owner Carol Schroeder to the Wisconsin State Journal.
Schroeder believes the mask mandate’s premature expiration date poses a risk to children under the age of five who cannot be vaccinated. A COVID-19 vaccine for children under age five still awaits approval in the U.S.
Gretchen Treu, who is co-owner of A Room of One's Own bookstore on Madison's East Side, said they are "disappointed and worried about the loss of the mask mandate in Dane County."
The store will continue to require masks for customers and employees after Tuesday.
"It's especially upsetting to me as a parent of a two-and-a-half-year-old, given we still don't know when people that young will have access to vaccines," Treu said. "My family still rarely goes out because of this."
Other businesses, including the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, are ready for the mask mandate’s expiration.
"For months… we sought greater clarity on the metrics and decision-making behind continued government orders, yet Dane County businesses have stepped up by following and enforcing public health orders and encouraging workforce vaccinations," said Chamber President Zach Brandon. "As we recalibrate, we will continue to support our community’s health, but we must now turn our focus to the hard work of accelerating our economic recovery."
American Family Insurance will strongly encourage masks but will not require them for vaccinated employees, said spokesperson Clare Hendricks.
At least 63.9% of Wisconsin residents have received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Feb. 24, according to Public Health Madison & Dane County data. Just over 60% have obtained their second dose, and 32% received a third booster shot.
"We've seen our numbers both for case and hospitalizations dropping pretty substantially," PHMDC spokesperson Morgan Finke said in support of the mandate’s expiration.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention loosened their masking guidelines Friday, saying that more than 70% of the U.S. population lives in a location with low or medium COVID-19 transmission levels.
Federal guidelines still mandate masks on public transportation, such as buses, airports, taxis and ridesharing services. Most, if not all, hospitals and clinics in Dane County will continue to require face coverings.