Brief

Dane County says its health orders will become ‘recommendations’ in June

By: - May 19, 2021 5:05 am

Public Health Madison Dane County Director Janel Heinrich announces Tuesday that the county’s current health order will end June 2. (Screen capture | YouTube)

Dane County, which has had some of the strongest local public health protection measures since the COVID-19 pandemic began, will end its mask mandate and all other public health orders two weeks from now, officials announced Tuesday.

The announcement from Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC) followed a guidance update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week stating that people who have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 could forgo wearing masks indoors with others.

The CDC also stated that people who have not yet completed the vaccine process — including waiting two weeks after their last shot — should continue to mask and observe physical distancing indoors with other people.

In announcing its plan to lift restrictions in June, Dane County health officials “strongly” recommended that schools and youth programs continue requiring masks indoors — also part of the CDC guidance.

When they are lifted June 2, the county’s health orders will become “recommendations.”

The county’s high vaccination rate made it possible to lift its public health orders by the scheduled date, according to health director Janel Heinrich. So far 63% of Dane County residents have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to PHMDC, and Heinrich said that number is expected to reach 75% by June 2. In addition to the mask requirement those include limits on gatherings and capacity.

According to the department, more than 53% of Dane County residents have completed their vaccination course. In the six days since they became eligible for a shot, 16.4% of children 12-15 years old  in the county have received a first dose of the vaccine.

“Because not everyone is able to get vaccinated, particularly our kids younger than 12, even after the orders expire, unvaccinated people should continue to wear masks in public spaces,” Heinrich stated.

Statewide, 45.5% of Wisconsin residents have received at least one vaccination dose, according to the state Department of Health Services (DHS), and 39.6% have completed a vaccination series. County vaccination rates vary widely; Dane County has the state’s highest rate, while slightly more than 25% of residents in Clark and Taylor counties have begun a vaccine series.

Local municipalities and counties around Wisconsin have varied widely in their public health restrictions during the pandemic, but communities where orders have been in place have begun announcing plans to relax them.

The city of Racine announced Friday, May 14, that it would stop enforcing its mask mandate effective that day. The same day, the city of Milwaukee announced it will lift its public health limits on gatherings and capacity effective June 15. On Tuesday, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett announced the city would end its health orders and mask requirement two weeks earlier, on June 1, but the city’s website did not reflect the new expiration as of Wednesday morning.

Dane County’s mask requirement and other restrictions remain in place until June 2, officials said. Dane County Executive Joe Parisi suggested in a statement that businesses might wish to continue policies of their own for masking or other protections.

The two-week window before the county restrictions end will allow the 12-15-year-old group more time to get vaccinated, according to Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway.

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Erik Gunn
Erik Gunn

Senior Reporter Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, health policy and related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary. An East Coast native, he previously covered labor for The Milwaukee Journal after reporting for newspapers in upstate New York and northern Illinois. He's a graduate of Beloit College (English Comp.) and the Columbia School of Journalism. Off hours he is the Examiner's resident Springsteen and Jackson Browne fanboy and model railroad nerd.

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