All Dane County public health orders will be lifted in two weeks, including mask requirements and gathering limits. Today, Dane County public health officials said they would not renew the orders when they expire on June 2nd.
Janel Heinrich, the director of Public Health Madison and Dane County, gave the news to reporters gathered at the Alliant Energy Center earlier today.
“It is with great hope and excitement that I am here to announce that we will not be issuing a new order once the current order expires on June 2nd,” said Heinrich.
The change will bring Dane County’s mask requirements in line with a recent change in guidance from the C-D-C, which announced last week that it was okay for fully vaccinated people to stop wearing masks.
The change brings an end to a mask mandate and gathering limits for Dane County residents that have been in place for more than ten months. All restrictions for businesses, indoor gatherings, and masks will be lifted when the orders end on June 2nd.
Heinrich says that this decision comes out of following the science.
“As of this morning, 63% of Dane County residents have had at least one dose,” said Heinrich. “Our case counts have dropped dramatically. Our seven-day average of cases per day is at 25, levels which we have not seen since last June, even as (COVID) variants have become more predominant.”
But the orders will still be in effect for the next two weeks. Heinrich says that’s to give people, especially the newly-eligible 12 to 15 year olds, time to get vaccinated.
Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway says that, since Wisconsinites between the ages of 12 and 15 became eligible last Wednesday, there’s been significant progress in vaccinating them.
“We lead the nation in vaccinations, especially for folks over 65, a group that is over 90% vaccinated,” said Rhodes-Conway. “Our youngest are working hard to catch up, with 16% of 12-15 year olds having their first dose after only a week of being eligible.”
According to data from the DHS, 53% of Dane County residents are fully vaccinated, making it one of the most highly-vaccinated counties in the United States. By comparison, just over 39% of Wisconsinites are fully vaccinated – close to the national vaccination rate of 37%.
Public health officials say that when the public health orders end on June 2nd, wearing masks and gathering limits will become recommendations.
Businesses and organizations may also choose to enforce their own policies. In a statement, the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce wrote that today’s announcement was a quote “extraordinary step in the right direction.”
But, some privately-owned stores may not lift the requirement to wear masks.
CBS News reported today that Kroger, a U.S. supermarket chain that runs Pick N’ Save, will continue requiring customers and employees to wear masks, even as Walmart and Target lifted their requirements.
Meanwhile, children under the age of twelve are still unable to get the vaccine. Public health officials strongly recommend that schools and those in youth settings should continue to require masks.
“I have a child who is not yet eligible, and we will likely stay masked,” said Heinrich. “He will stay masked when we are in places where folks are unmasked and the first thing that I’ll do-and I encourage everyone to do while keeping your children masked-if they aren’t eligible for a vaccine, is to get vaccinated when they’re eligible.”
Today’s news comes as a fully-vaccinated but immunocompromised woman died on Sunday from COVID-19, reports the Wisconsin State Journal. According to data from late April, only 605 Wisconsinites – that’s .03 percent of the state’s vaccinated population – have had so-called breakthrough infections, or COVID-19 infection while fully vaccinated.
The Washington Post reports today that COVID-19 vaccines may not work as effectively for people who are immunocompromised. The Post reports that according to emerging research, fifteen to eighty percent of people with certain underlying conditions like blood cancers or organ transplants tend to generate fewer COVID-19 antibodies.