With COVID-19 infections waning, state officials announced Friday that employees and visitors will no longer be required to wear face coverings inside certain state buildings starting Tuesday, and that the weekly COVID-19 testing program for unvaccinated executive employees would end on March 13.
Workers in corrections, health services and veterans, and those who work in congregate settings, such as prisons, will be required to wear masks until at least April 1. according to updated guidelines released Friday by the State Personnel Management Division. Quarantine rules for people who test positive for COVID-19 do not change.
While the Department of Corrections will continue to require masks until at least April, the department announced Friday that the recent drop in COVID-19 cases prompted it to resume in-person visits for inmates.
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Dane County announced Feb. 14 that its indoor mask mandate would be allowed to expire at the end of this month, while the Madison School District said Wednesday its requirement would remain at least until the end of the spring break, or April 1, but that starting Tuesday, students and staff could go outside unmasked on school property. The majority of other school districts in Dane County will relax or drop their requirements entirely starting Tuesday.
UW-Madison announced Feb. 16 that it will lift its mask mandate when spring break begins March 12.
The seven-day average of positive COVID-19 tests in Dane County fell from 22% in early January to less than 5% on Thursday, according to Public Health Madison and Dane County. Hospitalizations due to the virus are also down 19% over the past two weeks, while nearly 80% of residents have been vaccinated and more than 69% of those over 12 have had their boosters.
In guidelines updated Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention leaves the decision to wear a mask in Dane County to “your personal preference, informed by your personal risk level.” Under a new three-tier risk-scoring system, which the agency is calling Covid-19 Community Levels, Dane is considered low risk, the least dangerous. The system is based on hospital bed utilization and admissions and the number of new COVID-19 cases in an area.
This is a significant change from the CDC’s previous guidance on masks, released Jan. 21. Under those guidelines and its risk calculation method, Dane County was deemed at high risk through early Friday afternoon, and indoor masks were recommended. .
In announcing the partial end of state buildings’ mask mandate, the Division of Personnel Management noted that positive COVID-19 tests and testing rates are at levels not seen since last summer, and that more than “77% of Wisconsin State employees have completed their COVID-19 Vaccination Series.
State quarantine rules will continue to require anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 to stay home for five days. They can return to work after that if they have no symptoms, but must wear masks around others for a further five days.
The seven-day average of positive COVID-19 tests in Dane County fell from 22% in early January to less than 5% on Thursday.