Person wears a mask while grocery shoppingIt’s been a busy few weeks! You might have missed some of the latest announcements concerning masks, school guidance, and the Madison and Dane County employee vaccination policy. Read on to learn more about each of these announcements.

Masking Advisory

On July 27, in light of new data from the CDC, we issued a new advisory that strongly recommends everyone ages 2 and older, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask in indoor public spaces and at indoor private gatherings.

The new data suggest that vaccinated people can spread the virus to others, perhaps at a similar rate to unvaccinated people. This is a very recent change in our understanding of how the Delta variant impacts vaccinated people. When the CDC revised its mask guidance in May, the Delta variant represented 1% of all cases in the U.S. Today, that number is more than 80%.

CDC is doing more research to find out exactly how likely it is for vaccinated people to spread COVID. In the meantime, masks are an effective tool in preventing the spread of COVID to others, even for people who are vaccinated.

While masking is very important, don’t forget that vaccination is our way out of this pandemic, and it’s not too late to get your shot! If you or someone you know is looking for options to get vaccinated, schedule an appointment at one of our office locations or drop by one of our community pop-up clinics.

School Guidance

In collaboration with The UW Pediatric Medical Advisory Group, we released school guidance for the 2021-2022 school year to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The guidance recommends a layered approach, starting with vaccination and masking indoors, followed by many other additional strategies to prevent the spread of the virus.

According to CDC and DHS guidance, the other important tools schools can use to prevent the spread of the virus include:

  • Encouraging students to stay home and get tested when sick
  • Encouraging handwashing
  • Enforcing physical distancing for those who are unvaccinated
  • Following proper ventilation
  • Cleaning and disinfection
  • Contact tracing, in combination with isolation and quarantine

Madison & Dane County Employee Vaccination Policy

On August 3, County Executive Parisi and Mayor Rhodes-Conway announced plans for requiring COVID-19 vaccination for city and county employees. Employees who are unable to provide proof of vaccination will be required to submit to weekly testing.

Employee vaccination policies are a great way to help increase vaccination in our community while also protecting the members of the public we serve.

Our director, Janel Heinrich, provided remarks at this news conference, and you can read them below:

Good morning. I join you today with gratitude, thankful that, in the spirit of public health and for the health of our community, more employers and businesses are recognizing the importance of vaccination. Proactive steps like these are what has helped our county emerge a leader throughout this pandemic, and be recognized nationally for our vaccination efforts.

We are among the most highly vaccinated communities in the country, but it doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods. The delta variant has emerged as the predominant strain circulating in Dane County.  Over the past month, we have learned more about how transmissible Delta is. Our 7-day case average has increased from 7 on June 15th to 66.9 today.

The good news is that even though more people are testing positive for COVID, and percent positivity has risen, we are not yet seeing this translate to an increase in hospitalizations or deaths, like in many areas of the country with lower vaccination rates. And, hopefully we won’t since our vaccination rate is so high.

But, we know that delta can spread easily, and to unvaccinated people even easier, which makes it even harder to avoid, even if someone has gone the whole pandemic without getting sick or vaccinated.

The single best tool we have is the vaccine. All three vaccines remain effective tools in protecting you from severe outcomes. Although you might be hearing about breakthrough cases, the ‘protective shield’ of the vaccine is still strong. It is vitally important to get vaccinated, to protect yourself from severe outcomes and to protect others from infection. And you can reinforce that protective shield against Delta by wearing a mask inside during gatherings with people outside your household—such as a store, a concert, your place of work, or school.

Here’s the bottom line: as we learn more about the Delta variant, we’re learning just how transmissible it is. If you’re unvaccinated, the virus will likely find you. This statement is not meant to scare you, it’s meant to underscore our current reality when it comes to this pandemic. That being said, the virus may also find you if you are vaccinated—brand new research from last week suggests that people who are vaccinated who get COVID may be able to transmit COVID effectively. The difference is, your body will be better prepared and better equipped to fight it if you are vaccinated, ensuring a better chance for a better outcome. Together, we can protect ourselves and each other: so, please: get the vaccine if you haven’t and wear a mask indoors. Thank you.

This content is free for use with credit to the City of Madison - Public Health Madison & Dane County and a link back to the original post.