‘If we were all getting vaccinated, we wouldn’t even be here right now’: Frustration grows over mask recommendations

MADISON, Wis. — Public health leaders in Dane County want to go on the offensive when it comes to COVID defense.

That’s the main reason they’re going beyond what the CDC recommends for our area when it comes to returning to wearing masks indoors.

The newest recommendations may suggest we have taken a step back in overcoming the pandemic, and with that comes frustration from people we spoke with Wednesday.

“If we were all getting vaccinated, we wouldn’t even be here right now. This thing would all be behind us right now,” said Clary’s Gourmet Popcorn owner Kenneth Clary.

The CDC and Public Health Madison & Dane County’s latest recommendations are serving as an unfriendly reminder of how the pandemic hurt Clary’s bottom line.

“The weekdays are still slow, everyone’s still working from home and they are just not coming down here during the week,” Clary said.

This week, Dane County surpassed 70 percent of all people having at least one dose of the vaccine, and the CDC does not currently list the county — or any surrounding ones — as having high or even substantial levels of COVID.

But PHMDC Director Janel Heinrich is taking that recommendation one step further.

“We’d like to prevent getting to an area of higher transmission, which is why we’re putting forth this advisory, to encourage mask-wearing to further give us better tools to further reduce the spread of this illness,” Heinrich said when announcing the recommendation Tuesday.

On Wednesday, PHMDC further explained their reasoning, saying that even though Dane County is seeing a moderate amount of cases as of right now, they see cases rising rapidly.

Doctors like UW Health’s Nasia Safdar understand that thought process and agree that it’s better to take a step back now to prevent falling completely back in the near future.

“If you’re continually confronted with circulating virus, it’s going to evade the vaccine in a sense that it will cause mild symptoms, which is what these breakthrough infections are,” Dr. Safdar said. “So if you have this added protection of the mask, I think we can help drastically reduce that risk.”