Hello fellow Wisconsinites. This is Julie Willems Van Dijk, Wisconsin’s Interim State Health Officer and Deputy Secretary of the Department of Health Services. I am writing to you today about something very close to my heart – the health and safety of our fellow Wisconsinites.
The Wisconsin State Supreme Court has overturned the current public health emergency, which also ended the mask order. From a public health perspective, this decision is dangerous and disappointing, but it does not need to change our own decisions about protecting our health and the health and safety of our families and friends, our neighbors and colleagues, and all our fellow residents of Wisconsin.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we at DHS have followed the science, and we know our local and tribal health departments have done the same. The science is clear – masks work. My mask protects you, your mask protects me, and mask orders protect our communities and everyone in Wisconsin. Science shows that wearing a mask helps prevent transmission of the virus, and science also shows that the more people who wear them, the more effective they are at stopping the spread of COVID-19. And the science is clear on mask orders as well – mask orders work.
We will continue to follow the science in our statewide response, and we’re asking you to do the same by doing everything in your power to support the adoption or continuation of mask orders in your jurisdiction. For more information on the science behind masks and the effectiveness of mask orders, there are links to research below.
After more than a year of dealing with COVID-19, I know people are tired, and that following public health guidance is more and more challenging by the day. More than one million Wisconsin residents have completed their vaccine series, and all Wisconsinites age 16 and up will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine starting Monday, April 5. We are moving in the right direction. However, at this point in the pandemic, mitigation measures like mask orders are more important than ever. The number of identified cases of the more contagious COVID-19 variants in Wisconsin are increasing, which means the virus is likely to spread even more quickly if we do not take significant action to stop it. Again, masks are effective, and so are mask orders. Together, we can stop the spread.
Thank you for making healthy and safe decisions, for masking up, and for protecting your fellow Wisconsinites.
Julie Willems Van Dijk
Interim State Health Officer
DHS Deputy Secretary
For research on mask effectiveness, please see “An evidence review of face masks again COVID-19” from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United State of America, January 26, 2021. The evidence review shows that wearing masks reduces the transmission of respiratory droplets, and that there are benefits at the community level.
For research on mask order effectiveness, please see “Trends in County-Level COVID-19 Incidence in Counties With and Without a Mask Mandate” from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, November 27, 2020. The study shows that counties in Kansas that adopted the statewide mask mandate saw a decrease in COVID-19 cases, while counties that opted out saw an increase. In counties that participated in the mask mandate, there was a 6% decrease in new cases per 100,000 residents. In counties that did not, there was 100% increase in new cases per 100,000 residents.