JVG_210430_HEALTH

Kevin Propp looks through an assortment of face masks for sale while shopping at Dave’s Ace Hardware in Milton.

A new mask order issued in Rock County eliminates the mandate for wearing masks outdoors and says it is OK for fully vaccinated people not to wear masks indoors while with other fully vaccinated people.

The Rock County Public Health Department issued the updated mask order Thursday afternoon. The order is effective immediately and will remain in effect until June 30, said Katrina Harwood, health officer.

The change is influenced by recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that says it is OK for people not to wear masks outdoors when in small or moderately sized groups of people that can space out.

Masks are still recommended in crowded outdoor spaces or events, Harwood said.

Fully vaccinated people—those who are two weeks past their Johnson & Johnson shot or their second Moderna or Pfizer shot—can unmask indoors when around other people who are fully vaccinated, Harwood said.

Harwood anticipated that guidance might drive people to want to know other people’s vaccine status, but individuals can choose to keep that information private if they wish, she said.

Employers or organization leaders should continue to provide virtual or remote options for meetings or other group settings for people who might still be uncomfortable being unmasked or for people who are not yet vaccinated, Harwood said.

Offering flexibility takes the pressure off businesses and individuals to disclose health information, Harwood said.

Also announced Thursday, the county has updated its reopening phases to include a new capacity recommendation at Phase 3.

The health department, once the county is in Phase 3, will recommend businesses open to 75% capacity as an intermediate step between Phase 2 and total normalcy, Harwood said.

However, Rock County will continue to be in Phase 2 for the immediate future, Harwood said.

She said the health department hopes to keep making incremental changes to orders and recommendations that move the county forward, not backward.

During a media call Thursday, Rock County epidemiologist Nick Zupan said the health department was monitoring what it called a “slowdown” in demand for the vaccine among Rock County residents.

In Rock County, 39.5% of residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 28.5% have completed the vaccination process.

Virus case rates in the county have increased slightly since last week, with Zupan noting the county reported around an average of 35 new cases this week compared to 30 new cases last week. Since April 1, Rock County has seen increasing COVID-19 spread, along with the identification of three more-contagious COVID-19 variants in the county.

Zupan said officials were aware that 2.2% of Rock County residents who received their initial Pfizer or Moderna dose had missed their appointments to get their second dose. Nationwide, the rate for missed second vaccinations from two-series doses is around 8% to 10%.

Harwood urged residents to get their second doses, noting that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require a second dose to provide the most protection against COVID-19.

Adams Publishing Group reporter Austin Montgomery contributed to this story.

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