Dane County’s mask mandate is expiring, but you might still need to wear one inside grocery stores

MADISON, Wis.– For the first time in six months, starting March 1, Dane County will no longer be under a mask order.

Public Health Madison & Dane County announced Monday the current order will be allowed to expire. While that’s encouraging news, health officials say it doesn’t signal the end of the pandemic and people might still need to wear a mask inside local businesses.

MORE: Dane County mask order to expire March 1, but ‘doesn’t mean the pandemic is over,’ officials say

“From the very beginning, grocery stores were some of the first, along with healthcare and first responders, to adopt masks,” said Brandon Scholz, President of the Wisconsin Grocers Association.

Scholz told News 3 Now that, mandate or not, the decision to mask is left up to individual business owners, who often defer to their workforce.

“Stores are going to talk to their employees to make sure they feel safe. And if they want to keep their masks on, they will,” he added.

Several national chains are already weighing in: Walmart recently dropped its mask order for full-vaccinated workers, while CVS, Target, and Aldi still require them for employees and encourage them for customers.

“Masks are something that people see on a complete regular basis,” Scholz explained. “So if they’re still in stores after March 1st, I don’t think anyone will blink an eye.”

“Letting the face covering order expire doesn’t mean that the pandemic is over,” PHMDC director Janel Heinrich said in the county’s statement regarding the mask mandate.

However, both Heinrich and Scholz are encouraged Dane County’s latest decision will mark the beginning of the end.

“Rather, it signals that we have made it through the Omicron surge and are entering a new stage of the pandemic,” Heinrich added.

“I think we view this as a good next step in terms of progression. This is a hopeful sign we’ll see things dissipate and masks can stay off,” Scholz said.