Dane County, Milwaukee Ending Local Mask Orders in Early June

Public health officials in Dane County and Milwaukee are also lifting pandemic-related capacity limits next month, following new CDC guidance for vaccinated individuals. This comes as Republicans introduce a bill to end the $300 federal unemployment supplement.

By Will Kenneally

May 18, 2021

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Joe Parisi

Dane County Exec. Joe Parisi adjusts his mask during a July 7, 2020 news conference.

Wisconsin’s two most populous municipalities announced Tuesday they would let all COVID-19 public health orders related to the pandemic expire in early June.

Public health officials in Dane County, which has been among the Wisconsin counties with local mask mandates, said the county’s vaccination rate — among the highest in the nation — is allowing the removal of pandemic-related public health guidelines by June 2.

“Today I applaud the 63% of Dane County residents who have gotten vaccinated,” said Janel Heinrich, director of Public Health Madison & Dane County. “We estimate that [by June 2] 75% of those eligible for [the] vaccine will have received their first dose.”

The announcement affects all of the county’s COVID-19 public health orders, including capacity limits on dining and public gatherings.

Milwaukee followed suit Tuesday, with Mayor Tom Barrett announcing the city’s public health orders would end June 1.

This comes days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance on the use of face masks. On May 13, the federal agency announced that fully-vaccinated individuals would no longer need to wear masks in most settings, with a few exceptions including airplanes and other public transportation.

Officials in Wisconsin indicated the decision to let their current orders lapse in a couple weeks, as opposed to ending them right away, was to allow residents more time to get vaccinated.

“This two-week window gives 12-15 year-olds more time to get vaccinated before all orders are lifted,” said Madison’s mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway.

A little less than half of Wisconsinites have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and roughly 40% have received a full course. Wisconsinites as young as 12 became eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine last week.

Officials Talk Economic Reopening

Also Tuesday at the state Capitol, Republican legislators introduced a bill aimed at reducing the state’s worker shortage by ending federal supplements to unemployment benefits.

The bill would end a $300 supplement for Wisconsin unemployment insurance recipients, as well as take the state out of the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which provides pandemic-related unemployment insurance for those not usually covered, such as independent contractors.

“We need to get people back into the workforce so Wisconsin’s economy can continue its recovery,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said. “The federal enhancements only keep people on the sidelines while businesses who desperately need workers struggle to meet demand.”

Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, echoed Vos, saying that employers in his district are desperate for workers and have a hard time competing with unemployment benefits, despite raising wages.

“We need to return to regular unemployment compensation programs and encourage able-bodied Wisconsinites to get back to work,” he said.

Gov. Tony Evers did not weigh in on the proposal.

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