(ELKHORN, WI): Based on recently updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Walworth County is now asking all employees and members of the public who are conducting business in County-owned facilities to wear face masks regardless of vaccination status when in public spaces or in contact with others. This change becomes effective August 9, 2021.
On July 27, 2021, the CDC updated its COVID-19 guidance related to fully vaccinated people, adding a recommendation for those who are fully vaccinated to wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission. This recommendation is supported by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) and the Walworth County Department of Health and Human Services (WCDHHS).
Walworth County is listed as an area of high transmission by the CDC, with 120 positive cases of COVID-19 between Aug. 1 and 7. Per the CDC, the threshold for high transmission is 100 cumulative cases per 100,000 people.
“The County has been closely monitoring local disease activity in order to make informed decisions on mask recommendations for public, indoor settings,” says County Administrator Mark Luberda. “We will continue to refer to CDC classifications of community transmission as the primary reference for our decision making.” He further notes that ignoring the CDC guidance, “would put our county operations at risk from negative impacts.”
The CDC’s revised guidance is in response to new evidence on the B.1.617.2 (delta) variant of the COVID-19 virus. The delta variant is more contagious than past versions of the virus currently circulating in the United States. Statewide, the delta variant accounts for 78% of the total variants sequenced during July, and during the last few weeks has risen to account for 88% of variants detected in sequenced samples.
“The best way to protect yourself, your family, and your community from COVID-19 and the delta variant is to get vaccinated,” says Walworth County Public Health Officer Erica Bergstrom. “Increasing our vaccination coverage will help reduce the spread of the virus. We have plenty of vaccine supply in Walworth County, and we encourage all employees and members of the public who are eligible to get vaccinated.”
There are a few exceptions to Walworth County’s internal mask policy, including Walworth County Jail, Judicial Center, Lakeland Health Care Center, and Lakeland School. These departments may elect to maintain their own departmental mask and social distancing requirements as prescribed by their department heads, oversight boards, committees, and state oversight departments and agencies. Visitors to these facilities will need to adhere to these individual department policies.
Reasonable efforts will be made to maintain physical distancing during public meetings occurring under the requirements of the open meetings law. Participants and observers of public meetings subject to the open meetings law are asked to wear a mask during the open public meeting, regardless of their vaccination status. Overflow space can be made available to help participants achieve their desired physical spacing. Remote participation by employees and visitors can also be made available.
For local public health guidance and COVID-19 vaccine information, follow Walworth County Department of Health and Human Services on Facebook or visit https://www.co.walworth.wi.us/304/Health-Human-Services.