Sen. Ron Johnson uses the opportunity to once again spread misinformation about COVID-19.
A day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended everyone—even people vaccinated against COVID-19—resume masking in areas where community virus transmission is high, Wisconsin officials are urging the same, but with one notable exception.
The pandemic appeared to be receding in recent months as new confirmed COVID-19 cases steadily declined and more people slowly but surely received vaccinations. But with the highly contagious Delta variant—which initial research suggests can fairly easily infect vaccinated people—surging, cases are once again on the rise. Despite the so-called “breakthrough infections,” health officials note vaccines are still highly effective in reducing the risk of severe illness and hospitalization from the Delta variant, and nearly 100% of recent COVID deaths are among unvaccinated people.
The CDC recommends everyone to wear a mask in communities with substantial or high spread. Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, Calumet, Adams, Buffalo, Pepin, Shawano, Forest, Florence, Oneida, Iron, Sawyer, and Bayfield counties have such levels of virus transmission, according to CDC data.
Wisconsin’s seven-day daily average of new confirmed COVID-19 cases has exploded from 89 on July 2 to 478 on Tuesday, according to Department of Health Services (DHS) data.
“As COVID-19 cases climb, and the Delta variant continues to spread, we urge Wisconsinites to get vaccinated,” DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said in a statement. “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. Vaccines and the additional protection from wearing masks are the best combination of tools to achieve this goal.”
The CDC also recommended requiring masks for all students and staff in school buildings, and DHS echoed that recommendation.
No health authority in Wisconsin has yet reinstated a mask mandate, but officials have in other cities such as Los Angeles and St. Louis. However, Racine announced Wednesday that all city employees will once again be required to mask up, as will members of the public when they enter city buildings.
Janel Heinrich, Dane County and Madison’s health officer, issued a statement strongly encouraging masks.
“The Delta variant is spreading quickly in our community, causing an increase in cases in Dane County,” Heinrich said. “This is why we are strongly advising that everyone ages 2 and older, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask in indoor public spaces, and at indoor private gatherings.”
Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, who frequently spreads pandemic-related conspiracy theories and misinformation, balked at the CDC’s new guidance and again spread false information.
“Do masks even work? Do they do more harm than good—particularly to children who have a low risk of serious disease or death from Covid?” he said in a statement. Masks have repeatedly been shown to be effective in minimizing the spread of COVID-19, especially when coupled with social distancing.
Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin said she is in favor of the new guidance and encouraged people to get vaccinated, which is still the most effective form of virus prevention.
“We need to do more to stop the spread of the Delta variant,” Baldwin said in a statement. “I support the CDC mask guidance and I also encourage everyone in Wisconsin who hasn’t been vaccinated to get vaccinated.”