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With exceptions for vaccinated, Dane County extends mask mandate to Jan. 3

With exceptions for vaccinated, Dane County extends mask mandate to Jan. 3

Man wearing mask

With COVID-19 cases surging, Dane County again will be under an indoor mask mandate starting Thursday under a new order issued by Public Health Madison and Dane County.

Dane County has extended its mask mandate to Jan. 3, though the new order includes an exception for fully vaccinated people in an enclosed space.

COVID vaccine doses for children ages 5-11 arrive at SSM Health. Video provided by SSM Health.

Public Health Madison and Dane County had previously said the current mandate would end on Saturday and was not expected to continue. The county had lifted its mask mandate in early June before reinstating it in August.

“We had hoped to not issue any more face-covering orders but in the last three weeks, our rate of disease in the community has nearly doubled, the rate among children is at an all-time high and in other parts of the state, cases are even higher,” said Janel Heinrich, director of Public Health Madison and Dane County.

“With the holiday travel season upon us, this Order provides more time for those who are newly eligible to get their first and second doses and for more adults to get booster doses,” she said.

The rate of COVID-19 cases among children has indeed never been higher in Dane County, with cases accelerating over the past month, according to Public Health’s data. About 11 children ages 5-7 tested positive every day over the last week. Sixteen children ages 8-11 tested positive daily over that same time.

For comparison, a daily average of four people over 60 tested positive in the last week.

Children between 5 and 11 became eligible to be vaccinated earlier this month.

The new public health order requires face coverings for people ages 2 and older when in “most enclosed spaces open to the public” where other people are present, the public health agency said in a statement. Yet the order also allows for “people to remove their masks if all individuals in an enclosed space are fully vaccinated.”

A spokesperson with Public Health did not respond to an email asking how the exception for the vaccinated would be enforced or if they would issue guidance to businesses.

While Dane County has fewer cases per capita of COVID-19 than the rest of the state, it is still classified as having “high transmission” under criteria from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The county’s seven-day average for COVID-19 cases was 163 on Nov. 19. The statewide average was 3,068. Dane County makes up about 9% of the state’s population, but its weekly case average is 5.3% of the statewide total.

The state on Tuesday reported 4,262 new daily cases, the highest daily number since early December.

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