PATEL: Wisconsin mask mandate still necessary despite vaccination distribution

Graphic+via+Canva+

Graphic via Canva

Although COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed across the state of Wisconsin, Governor Tony Evers’ plan to enact another mask mandate once the current one ends is necessary for Wisconsinites to be safe in their day to day lives.

Evers announced in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, March 5 that he intends to defend his emergency order for a statewide mask mandate even if people are getting vaccinated, in order to follow the COVID-19 related science that calls for mask wearing to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

Currently, Wisconsin is third in the nation for COVID-19 vaccinations, with more than one in six Wisconsinites receiving at least one of the vaccine shots.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court is determining whether not not Evers has the authority to issue a statewide mask mandate solely on his own decision-making power.

And this is not the first time Evers’ emergency mask mandates have been questioned. There continues to be a debate on revoking the statewide mask mandate. 

The Wisconsin Legislature voted to end the statewide mask mandate Feb. 4 with a 52-42 vote. This would have allowed Wisconsinites to not have to wear masks unless required  by individual stores and restaurants. However, Governor Tony Evers quickly issued his fourth mask mandate hours after the Legislature finalized its decision. 

Although Evers’ legitimacy is still in question, revoking the mask mandate before the majority of Wisconsin residents receive vaccinations would ultimately increase the number of COVID-19 cases and cause more deaths, more spread and another potential lockdown.

As of March 6, Wisconsin has had over nearly 566,900 confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 6,400 deaths since March 2020, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services

Even as COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed, cases and deaths continue to increase across the state, showing that combatting this pandemic still requires collective action.

To promote better health, decrease the spread and a strive for a sense of normalcy again, the Wisconsin Supreme Court and Legislature must try not to revoke the mask mandate, as doing so would not only put healthy Wisconsinites at greater risk for contracting and spreading COVID-19. 

Continuing to wear masks is important, as vaccines protect recipients from the coronavirus developing into COVID-19 or lessening the severity of symptoms, but it does not necessarily stop vaccine recipients from spreading it to other people if they are carriers.

According to health experts, the goal is to create herd immunity that will stop people from spreading COVID-19 at an uncontrollable rate, and a way to do that is to continue following health safety guidelines like wearing a mask, social distancing and gathering only in small groups.

Young adults like Marquette students, especially, must follow these guidelines.

While higher risk groups for contracting the coronavirus, like Wisconsin residents between the ages of 55 and 64 as well as residents over the age of 65, have received the highest rate of vaccinations, groups at a higher risk of spreading the coronavirus have received the lowest rate of vaccinations.

Only 5.8% of young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 have received the first vaccine shot and only 3.9% have received both vaccine shots.

Marquette students have a responsibility to protect others by wearing a mask as they wait to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.

Wisconsin residents’ lives have already been dramatically altered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Many school-aged children had to attend virtual or hybrid schooling, workers have lost their jobs and many people are battling mental health issues. 

Important milestone events such as prom and graduations have been canceled or moved online, which was a huge disappointment to students who worked hard and looked forward to those celebrations.

It has been an extremely hard year. And as we approach the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 being widely present across the country, we cannot lose sight of what is important.

We are close to returning to a greater sense of normalcy. But we are not there yet. It is not safe enough to go out in public spaces and large gatherings without a mask.

While there is a vaccine currently being distributed, it’s important that everyone do the best they can to deal with the precautions for the next few months to come.  

As college students, we must do our part by continuing to wear masks until we all get vaccinated and it is safe to take them off. 

This story was written by Krisha Patel. She can be reached at krisha.patel@marquette.edu