The Rock County Health Department is recommending everyone, including those who have been vaccinated, to wear masks in indoor settings to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In a news release, Rock County Health Officer Katrina Harwood stated that the recommendation is based on scientific data and local circumstances, as well as being in line with recent guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It reflects a timely response to increasing COVID-19 case activity and the circulation of the delta variant nationwide,” Harwood said. “Vaccination and mask-wearing are the best defense against the further spread of the virus in our community.”

On the Illinois side of the state line, Winnebago and Boone counties have initiated similar mask-wearing guidance.

The CDC on Friday, July 27, updated its nationwide recommendations to reflect that mask-wearing should be done indoors in communities with high or substantial risk of infection.

As of Thursday, Harwood said Rock County had moved from moderate risk and into the category of “substantial” risk of COVID-19 transmission, according to the CDC’s coronavirus data tracker.

Case numbers have been steadily increasing in recent weeks, Harwood said.

Harwood added that while fully vaccinated individuals would like to return to do their normal activities without masks, the recommendation is necessary for overall public health at this time.

“The Rock County Public Health Department recognizes that changing recommendations can be challenging for us all. Our goal is to communicate the best science that we have so we can work together to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Harwood said.

The health department plans to reevaluate its guidance weekly in case of any need for further updates, Harwood said.

Harwood added residents should respect masking requests inside individual businesses or workplaces.

The health department also supports CDC recommendations that fully vaccinated people with known exposure to someone suspected of or confirmed with COVID-19 should get tested and wear masks indoors for 14 days or until they receive a negative result.

“Data show the delta variant is more contagious than past versions of the virus. The available COVID-19 vaccines are effective against the delta variant, but in rare circumstances, vaccinated people can get the delta variant in a breakthrough infection and may be able to spread it to others,” Harwood said.

Harwood also encouraged individuals who have not yet been vaccinated to do so as part of an overall effort to reduce the spread of the illness.

Responding to an inquiry from Adams Publishing Group, Beloit City Manager Lori Curtis Luther stated that the city supports the health department’s recommendation.

“The City of Beloit supports Rock County’s recommendation of indoor masking in public spaces regardless of vaccination status due to the substantial spread of the virus in the region,” Luther said.


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