DHS updates masking guidance to reflect latest CDC recommendations

Stack of medical masks
Image by jardin from Pixabay

MADISON, Wis. — State health officials, in line with new guidance from the CDC, are recommending people who live in areas with substantial and high levels of COVID-19 transmission mask up in public indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status.

Experts with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services said the new guidance was issued due to the rising prevalence of the Delta variant of the coronavirus. The variant is highly infectious and is rapidly spreading nationwide.

“Wisconsin’s 7-day average for new confirmed and probable cases has been trending upward,” said DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk. “We are concerned with this trajectory along with the increasing proportion of sequenced SARS-CoV-2 specimens that are the Delta variant.”

The latest CDC guidance also calls for masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors in K-12 school settings.

As cases continue to climb, experts said vaccination is still the best way to avoid contracting COVID-19. The vaccines are effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death, and they help reduce the spread of the virus in communities.

“We must protect our children as they head back to school this fall, along with all other Wisconsinites who are at an increased risk for being hospitalized from COVID-19,” Van Dijk said. “Vaccines and the additional protection from wearing masks are the best combination of tools to achieve this goal.”

On Tuesday, officials with Public Health Madison & Dane County recommended fully vaccinated people still mask up in public indoor spaces as a precaution. PHMDC director Janel Heinrich said that while the recommendation isn’t a mandate, the danger of the Delta variant is real.

“Let me be clear: the Delta variant is spreading rapidly in our county and could increase severe outcomes in our county if left unchecked,” Heinrich said.

Last week, Madison Metropolitan School District leaders announced masks will be required for everyone indoors at the start of the school year.