‘This is the way we prevent further mandates’: Health officials recommend everyone in Dane Co. return to masks indoors

MADISON, Wis. — Health officials in Dane County say they are following the lead of the CDC in recommending everyone in the county, including those who received the COVID-19 vaccine, return to wearing masks indoors.

Public Health Madison & Dane County made the recommendation Tuesday afternoon.

Health officials stress that this is an advisory and not a requirement or public health order, but that does not mean it’s less important.

“The fact that this is an advisory is not a reason to take it lightly,” PHMDC director Janel Heinrich said during a virtual press conference Tuesday. “Let me be clear: the Delta variant is spreading rapidly in our county and could increase severe outcomes in our county if left unchecked.”

The recommendation follows the latest guidance from the CDC, which recommended masks for everyone in areas of high COVID transmission as cases surge across the country and the Delta variant continues to spread. Local health officials say the Delta variant is the dominant strain of COVID in Dane County right now.

With 70% of Dane County residents having received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, the county is not currently considered a “high transmission” area, but Heinrich says the goal with the advisory is to prevent getting to that point.

“We’d like to prevent getting to an area of higher transmission, which is why we’re putting forth this advisory today, to encourage mask-wearing to further give us better tools to further reduce the spread of this illness,” Heinrich said.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said it was important to follow the voluntary advisory so mandates aren’t necessary in the future.

“This is the way we prevent further mandates, is by people voluntarily stepping forward, whether it’s individuals or businesses who would like to require masking in their establishments,” Parisi said.

“We can do this. We know how to beat this virus,” Parisi added.

Heinrich says she would love not to have to issue another mandate.

“Let’s not get there,” Heinrich said. “Let’s do what we need to do to prevent any further increase in transmission in our community right now.”

The announcement comes on the same day Wisconsin recorded nearly 1,000 new cases of the virus, the highest-single day total the state has seen since early April.

Dane County has not had a mask requirement in place since PHMDC’s last public health order was allowed to expire at the beginning of June.