End of mask mandate

Lauren Taillon, Arts Editor

On March 1 of this year, the indoor public mask mandate will come to an end in Dane County thanks to the decision made by Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC). The decision comes on the heels of the drastic number of new COVID-19 cases decreasing for the county over the past month. As of January, there were as many as roughly 1,500 new cases a day. Currently, there are roughly 150 new cases a day over a 7-day period according to the New York Times.
While this a giant step forward towards normalcy, PHMDC wants to stress to people that the end of this mask mandate won’t dictate how private businesses choose to conduct their in-store policies. This also doesn’t apply to public transportation – such as Madison Metro and Uber – who are still under a federal mask mandate.
I think this is a positive step forward for Dane County residents. While masks have served as an important step to combating the threat of COVID-19, the mandating of them has come with scrutiny, suspicion and general discord. Now that an end is in sight however, it is my hope that Dane County and our country can get some normal back.
I also believe that it is easier for people to humanize others when we can see someone’s entire face and their expressions. I think this will make it easier for people to connect with each other in a more meaningful way. This is also a win for people like me who have terrible allergies. We no longer will have to ask ourselves if we have COVID-19 or if we have been wearing our masks too long.
Still, the end of the mandate may also come with some problems. It is possible that people may be less careful when it comes to COVID-19 in general, since they don’t have a physical reminder to help them to remember to be careful.
That is why the PHMDC made a statement shortly after they announced the end of the mandate about COVID-19 safety. They said that just because masks won’t be required in public anymore, doesn’t mean that COVID-19 isn’t still a threat. They recommend that people still remain up to date on their vaccinations and boosters and make every effort to be careful.
There is also some concern that when the mandate is lifted, we will see an uptick in cases again. Some argue however, that with the mildness of the Omicron variant, a small uptick in cases wouldn’t be a big deal. Another thing to consider is that this could also be a disadvantage to senior citizens and high-risk individuals, who still have fear about contracting the virus.
Even though there are pros and cons to ending the mask mandate, I think we as a county can come together to reach a healthy middle. After all, it is possible to enjoy a mask-free lifestyle while also remaining respectful and courteous to our neighbors.