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Why medical professionals say masks, even for the vaccinated, could be necessary

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MADISON, Wis. – Despite Dane County being the most vaccinated county in the state of Wisconsin, it is not immune to the rising Coronavirus cases impacting the rest of the state. Now, its health officials are trying to figure out a solution to the growing numbers.

As of Thursday, 18 people in Dane County were hospitalized with COVID, with nine in the ICU.

“I think the worrisome thing this time around verse other times around is that this Delta variant is so much more contagious,” said Dr. Jeff Pothof of UW Health. “The speed at which that curve could go up is steeper than it was the first couple of outbreaks of COVID-19 that we had.”

Dane County has seen the 7-day average of cases triple in the last two weeks, now averaging close to 35 new cases each day. In addition, the percent positivity rate in the county has doubled to 2.6 percent.

During a press conference with Public Health Madison Dane County and the Madison mayor Thursday, public health officials emphasized the severity of the situation.

“We’re currently facing another pivotal moment in the COVID-19 pandemic response,” said Katarina Grande of Public Health Madison Dane County. “We know that people who are vaccinated are protected still from severe illness and death. However, very, very recent research from the CDC suggests that vaccinated people with symptoms could still be spreading Covid to others. This is a change from earlier in the pandemic.”

Pothof says this change is what has grown his concern the most.

“The thing that scares me the most is just how contagious the Delta virus is, ” he said. “All of us are going to come into contact with it at some point. If you’re vaccinated, you have this incredible insurance policy. If you’re unvaccinated, it’s like walking on a tightrope.”

Pothof says of the hospitalized cases at UW Hospital, virtually all involve unvaccinated people. While breakthrough cases of COVID have occurred, he says the vaccine has helped to prevent severe illness in those cases.

The revelation that vaccinated individuals could still possibly spread the virus has also led to PHMDC recommending all people, regardless of vaccination status, to mask while indoors.

“I know it’s a drag,” said Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway. “We thought we were done with this, but we really do need to take care of ourselves and each other and the two best ways to do that in terms of covid-19 are getting vaccinated and wearing your mask indoors. So, please please help us help our entire community.”

“Some people are going to say, ‘You know what, we’ve had vaccines for a long time, (unvaccinated people) made their choice, they sleep in their bed that they made’,” Pothof said. “Unfortunately it’s not that simple and here’s why- with the continued spread of this variant, it’s likely delta will mutate again, and it’s likely it’ll mutate into a form that defeats our vaccines, so now we all lose the game.”

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