It’s Too Soon to Ditch Masks

A Statement from Madison Area DSA

We strongly disagree with Public Health Madison & Dane County’s decision to allow the mask mandate to expire on March 1. Dropping the mask mandate is dangerous and premature, and we call on PHMDC to reinstate the requirement for public spaces. 

As we issue this statement, Dane County is still confirming close to 100 new COVID-19 cases a day, on average. While we are grateful for this significant improvement over the most recent spike, Dane County and every adjacent county (except one) still has “High” community transmission according to the CDC. Meanwhile, for some members of our community, such as children under twelve, vaccination rates remain low. Children under the age of five remain unvaccinated and vulnerable to infection and serious illness. While covid vaccines are very protective, they are not perfect and must be layered with other protections, such as masks. We are concerned that the new subvariant of Omicron, BA.2, that is spreading quickly could be more dangerous. 

Arguments that we must “return to normal” are based on an appeal to an idealized “normal” person or population. These arguments, which predicate policy decisions on the profiles and preferences of relatively white, wealthy communities, are inherently inequitable. They substitute analyses of average risk across the Madison area for attention to heightened, heterogeneous risks within it. They sacrifice the health, well-being, and even lives of our most vulnerable neighbors, reproducing the injustices that both existed before and exacerbated the pandemic. A return to this normal would be immoral.We need policy decisions that assure protections for those most at risk and uphold public health’s core commitment to equity. Public Health Madison Dane County should be doing everything within its power to decrease preventable suffering and death caused by COVID19.

At the end of the day, this is not just a conversation about covid policy.  This is a reflection of the US healthcare system and how nothing has fundamentally changed since the beginning of the pandemic. When the next pandemic occurs, we will be doomed to experience the same suffering occurring during the current pandemic. The US healthcare system has been brought to its knees- going “back to normal” is not an option for the millions of children who lost parents, Americans who lost loved ones, or the frontline workers who were used and tossed aside.  

Since the beginning of the pandemic, a majority of Dane County residents have demonstrated care for one another by cooperating with public health mandates, wearing masks, and getting vaccinated and boosted in high numbers. The anti-mask, anti-vaccine contingent might be vocal but they are a minority, especially here in Dane County. While many businesses and their lobbyists have clamored for fewer restrictions, most Dane County residents have done everything they can to protect themselves, their families, and the community at large. 

The safety of our community still depends on this spirit of solidarity and care. We strongly encourage DSA members and other members of our community to do the following:

  • Continue masking in public spaces. We have asked so much from our frontline workers in Dane County. The least we can do is keep on masking until community spread is significantly lower, especially given the reality that many workers are unable to work from home. Everybody counts and is deserving of protection. 
  • Talk to coworkers. Organize to keep masking requirements intact in your workplaces and to secure high-quality masks. You deserve to be safe at work. 
  • Help people find high-quality N95 and KN95 masks. Madison Area DSA has already purchased some KN95 masks to share with members. We can continue to connect community members with this resource.  

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