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'Sometime in summer': When health officials say local mask requirements could decrease

Posted at 8:29 PM, Mar 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-12 23:12:54-05

WINNEBAGO COUNTY, Wis. (NBC 26) -- A mask mandate has been in effect throughout the state of Wisconsin since July.

And after almost a year of wearing face coverings, some say they're still not used to it. Doug Gieryn, a local health official, is one of them.

"I probably fall in the camp of most people that don't like to wear masks," Gieryn said.

The Oshkosh city council approved an ordinance on Tuesday requiring face coverings if the state mandate ends. But Gieryn, the Winnebago County Health Department director, says it might not be long before local officials start to ease mask restrictions.

"The earliest that I could see that potentially happening where we're really decreasing the recommendations or the requirements on masking is probably going to be sometime in summer," he said.

But in a Thursday press briefing, the CDC says 'not so fast.'

"I think it's too early to project when we can lose our masks," CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said. "We are trying to do this step by step."

Almost two million vaccines have been administered across the state. Gieryn believes that could be key for those tired of masking.

"I think there's a couple of conditions that need to be in place," Gieryn said. "One, we need to have a large majority of the population vaccinated and we have to see low case rates."

Wisconsin's mask mandate ends early April. In Thursday's DHS media briefing, Governor Tony Evers wasn't sure if he'll extend it.

"We'll take a look at it in in early April and and see how that works," Evers said when asked about masking requirements. "If it looks like we need to have another push around masking, we will do that."

So as some Northeast Wisconsinites ask 'how long will we wear face coverings?,' Gieryn tells them to remain optimistic. But he doesn't want masks to go away until he's sure it's a good idea.

"Is it necessary for most people?" he asked. "Well if they're not infected, no it's not. But they just don't know. And so that's the only way we can really assure that we're doing everything we can to try to protect the rest of the community, protect spread and to some degree, protect ourselves."