In ‘Tremendous Achievement,’ More Than One-Third Of State’s Seniors Vaccinated Against COVID-19

Meanwhile Dane County Eases Pandemic Restrictions As New Cases Decline

A man with his shirt pulled down receives a shot
John Rowlands, left, receives the first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021, at Touchmark in Appleton, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

While slow to start, Wisconsin has made quick progress in vaccinating people against COVID-19. Compared to other states, it now ranks 10th in terms of getting the first dose into people’s arms.

More than a third of those 65 and older have been vaccinated, something state Department of Health Services Interim Secretary Karen Timberlake described as a “tremendous achievement.”

Timberlake said they’re still working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assure Wisconsin’s vaccination data is represented in a way that accurately reflects the situation in relation to other states. And while comparisons between states may be inevitable, the virus doesn’t stop at the border — something public officials have repeatedly stressed.

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“I would say the biggest risk we have right now is that we have a lot of people who are just tired of COVID … and it’s tempting to declare its over. COVID is not over,” Timberlake said.

A recognition of pandemic fatigue and a decline in new COVID-19 cases has some areas of the state cautiously easing up on restrictions, while making sure other precautions remain in place.

On Monday, Public Health Madison and Dane County issued a new public health order which allows all sports. Previous rules on sports activities were called “unreasonable and unnecessary” by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty. The conservative law firm has filed a lawsuit against the county over its pandemic rules, contending they violate state law.

The latest Dane County health order also changes the size of allowed gatherings depending on whether food and drink are served.

PHMDC director Janel Heinrich described the new rules as a way to reflect “hope and progress,” but asked people to continue taking precautions.

Dane County currently requires a mask when indoors. The new order says face coverings must also be worn when outside at gatherings of 50 or more people.

“Now, each of us has a different comfort level with risk. But no matter how much risk you are willing to take personally, we need you to help to reduce our collective risk,” said Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway at a Monday press conference.

The new order replaces a previous order set to expire Wednesday.

Many municipalities around the state have recently adjusted their health orders, not only to reflect changing pandemic conditions but to address possible changes at the state level.

Rock County issued a mask order Feb. 4 as GOP lawmakers passed a joint resolution overriding the governor’s previous COVID-19 emergency declaration and mask mandate. Other local governments around the state also took action to craft local mask rules, including the cities of Eau Claire, Green Bay and Superior.

Evers issued a new statewide mask mandate Feb. 4, roughly an hour after the Republican-controlled Legislature passed their joint resolution.