New reports: COVID-19 active, but easing slightly in Wisconsin

By: - November 2, 2021 5:11 am
Mask required sign

A mask mandate sign posted on the front door of a Madison restaurant. (Erik Gunn | Wisconsin Examiner)

Reflecting the hope that the August-October COVID-19 surge may be easing, Dane County’s health director announced Monday that she expects to end the county’s mask mandate by the end of the month.

Janel Heinrich, director of Public Health Madison & Dane County, said the county’s current mask order will be renewed Friday, Nov. 5, with a sunset date 22 days later on Nov. 27 at 12:01 a.m. Masks will continue to be required in public spaces indoors for anyone age 2 and older, with limited other exceptions.

Upon the order’s expiration, “at this point in time, Public Health Madison & Dane County does not plan to replace it with any other mask requirements,” according to an agency statement issued Monday.

Rising vaccinations and declining cases helped propel that decision, Heinrich said, along with the availability of more vaccine booster doses “which will only help strengthen our collective immunity,” Heinrich said in the health department’s announcement. She credited “intentional effective public health interventions” and the response by Dane County residents for declining transmission of the virus.

The agency continues to recommend requiring masks in schools for students, teachers and staff as effective in reducing transmission, noting that a study “showed that schools without mask requirements were 3.5 times more likely to have COVID outbreaks than schools with mask requirements.”

Statewide, COVID-19 infections remain very high, but the most recent data from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) also showed conditions tapering slightly and vaccinations continuing to trend upward, although slowly.

There are now 55% of state residents who are fully vaccinated, and 57.8% who have gotten at least a first dose of the vaccine, DHS reported Monday.

In the two-week period from Oct. 6 to Oct. 19, DHS recorded eight of Wisconsin’s 72 counties where disease activity — a combination of the burden of new infections as well as the trajectory of new cases — was “critically high,” as reported on a department map updated every Wednesday.

For the overlapping two-week period that ended Oct. 26, the number of counties with a critically high activity had fallen to four, DHS reported, and two counties —Rock and Kenosha — where activity was “very high” in the previous period were showing “high” activity along with Dane County.

New COVID-19 cases in the state peaked on Sept. 20 with an average of 2,941 over the previous seven days, according to DHS. Since then, the seven-day average for new cases has fallen, although it still remains high at 1,874 a day as of Sunday.

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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.