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Masks recommended but not required in Juneau County following state Supreme Court decision
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Masks recommended but not required in Juneau County following state Supreme Court decision

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Baraboo community vaccination clinic, March 31 (copy)

Evangeline Suquet, Ho-Chunk behavioral health division director, prepares needles during the community vaccination clinic at the Ho-Chunk House of Wellness March 31.

Juneau County Health officials are recommending people still wear masks during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic through a public health advisory following the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision striking down Governor Tony Evers’ mask mandate.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court issued their decision in a 4-3 case March 31, determining that Evers “exceeded the Governor’s powers” in extending a mask mandate multiple times.

“The question in this case is not whether the governor acted wisely; it is whether he acted lawfully,” said Justice Brian Hagedorn in the majority decision. “We conclude he did not.”

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Juneau County Public Health Supervisor Tara Ennis released a statement from the Public Health Officers in the Southern Region of Wisconsin, which includes Juneau, Vernon, Sauk and Adams Counties, among others, requesting that residents “continue the critical prevention measure of wearing a mask.”

“The overturning of the state masking order on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 by the State Supreme Court does not mean masking and social distancing are no longer important,” said Debbie Siegenthaler, Chair of the Southern Region’s Wisconsin Association of Local Health Departments and Boards. “We all want to be done with this pandemic, but we need to hang on a little longer. One important measure we can take is wearing a mask and we ask that residents continue until we can get a larger percentage of folks vaccinated.”

Juneau County, like all other counties in Wisconsin, opened vaccinations to anyone age 18 and over beginning April 5. Vaccinations in Juneau County have continued to trend upwards, as 30.7% of residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 21.3% of residents have received the full course of the vaccine. Cases in Juneau County are at their lowest point since the beginning of the pandemic, with five active cases as of April 6.

Even while in place throughout the state, the mask mandate was not enforced in Juneau County, despite several businesses in the county posting signs requiring masks. The majority of schools in the area have continued to require masks and have enforced the decision. Ennis’ press release states “It is important to note that businesses and schools can still require masks without a state order.”

Some counties in Wisconsin, including Dane and Rock counties, have issued their own mask mandates which still remain in place, though Juneau County health officials say they have no plans to issue a mask mandate. Instead the county is recommending, but not requiring, that individuals wear masks, while also physically distancing during interactions, washing hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer, staying home when sick and avoiding face-touching.

“The bottom line is that we must remain careful and diligent in the prevention measures we know work, such as mask wearing, physical distancing, avoiding large gatherings and washing our hands,” said Siegenthaler. “We need the assistance of each citizen in continuing to be part of an effective pandemic response and thank you in advance for your continued cooperation.”

Reach Christopher Jardine on Twitter @ChrisJJardine or contact him at 608-432-6591.

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