The coronavirus pandemic is heading in a dangerous direction.
Cases are up in Wisconsin and across most of the nation, as young people — many without symptoms — spread and contract the potentially deadly disease in greater numbers. The risk of transmission is highest indoors, where the virus can float longer in stagnant air.
That’s why Dane County is justified in mandating face coverings indoors starting Monday, unless you are in your home or outside. Dane County just confirmed its highest week of infections, averaging 111 per day, with more than 2,500 verified cases overall.
Thankfully, local hospitals are still operating well below capacity, with fewer people dying. But other states with surges in cases, such as Texas, haven’t been so lucky.
We don’t agree with everything in Dane County’s order. Its demand that masks be worn by visitors inside private homes seems needlessly intrusive. Leave personal decisions about private living spaces up to individuals.
The county’s prohibition on drinking inside bars seems heavy-handed, too, though outside patios can remain open. Allowing 25% capacity, similar to restaurants, would have been more reasonable.
Mostly, though, the order makes sense for two very big reasons: It will slow the accelerating spread of a terrible disease, and it will help keep our economy open.
Many businesses have been welcoming employees back to offices following months of working remotely or not at all. To stay open, those businesses need COVID-19 contained. And facial coverings are one of the best ways to limit the virus’s spread indoors.
Masks shouldn’t be political. While Dane County is liberal and tends to favor more government regulation, it is hardly the only place requiring facial coverings in risky settings.
Greg Abbott, the conservative governor of Texas, just instituted a similar requirement for most of his state. And even Republican President Donald Trump, who has pooh-poohed masks in the past, told Fox Business last week he’s “all for masks. I think masks are good.” Trump’s campaign is providing and “strongly encouraging” face coverings at an outdoor rally Saturday in New Hampshire.
So put on a mask when you enter a building that isn’t your home, or when you can’t stay 6 feet apart from others outside (assuming you don’t live with them). Covering your face will help slow COVID-19. It will help keep our hospitals stable. It will allow local businesses, many of which are struggling, to stay open.
The county’s mask mandate still lets most people do what they want. You can shop, eat, exercise and go where you please — mostly without a mask. But inside, where public health experts tell us the virus is most transmittable, please cover your face.