Racine ends mask ordinance following CDC recommendations

The City of Racine ended its mask ordinance – effective noon on Friday, May 14 – Mayor Cory Mason announced. 

Earlier in the week, the CDC issued new guidance which said fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, rules and regulations – including local business and workplace guidance. 

The mayor will ask the Common Council to fully repeal the ordinance at their meeting on Tuesday, May 18. 

"This does not mean the pandemic is over. If you are not vaccinated, COVID-19 is still a very serious threat to your health, and you should continue to wear masks and follow other best practices," Mason said. "The CDC only issued this new guidance because of the large numbers of people getting vaccinated."

Mason also thanked all Racine residents who took the virus seriously, stayed distant and wore masks.

"The City of Racine has always said we will follow the best public health guidance from the CDC and other experts as we work to mitigate COVID-19 locally," said Mason. 

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Business reacts

Following the midday change, places like the Racine Art Museum spent the day trying to keep up.

The piece "Hot Spots," created in 2009, takes on a different meaning in 2021.

"The artwork, I always feel languishes when people are not looking at it and having a dialogue," said Bruce W. Pepich, executive director and curator of collections at Racine Art Museum.

Racine Art Museum

Pepich is excited to have more people in to discuss and excited that the men behind the glass won't be the only uncovered faces.

"You do feel a little naked out in public because we’re used to being like this, and all of a sudden it’s your full face out there," Pepich said. "I welcome that, as long as it’s all approved by science and the medical profession, we’re all for it."

Pepich had just finished updating the museum's website Friday morning saying masks would be required because of the city ordinance when he got the new that enforcement would end.

"So of course if we’re saying we’re following the CDC and local health guidelines, we’re now unmasking at the museum," Pepich said.

Lakeview Pharmacy in Racine

The CDC's recommendation to take the mask off only applies to fully vaccinated people, around 37% of Racine's 16-and-older population, which is why customers will still need one inside Lakeview Pharmacy.

"We’re kind of taking a wait-and-watch attitude toward it, we’ve not made any official changes to our policy," said Megan Haapanen, pharmacist in charge at Lakeview Pharmacy.

Each business is left to make its own interpretation.

"It’s going to be a very interesting period of time over the next couple of weeks," Pepich said.

COVID-19 in Racine

According to the latest data from the City of Racine Public Health Department, 44.2% of their jurisdiction’s residents age 16 and up have had their first dose, and 37% are fully vaccinated.

The City’s COVID-19 case rate is currently 234 cases per 100,000 individuals over the last 14 days – down from 305 seven days ago – and has a 5-day average percent positivity rate of 13% – down from 20% seven days ago. 

Additionally, as of now, the CDC’s school guidance remains unchanged. Most students will still be unvaccinated, and schools should follow CDC’s guidance for schools. Teachers, school administrators, and staff should continue to follow CDC’s school guidance until more people and children are vaccinated. Students and staff on buses should continue to follow all masking and physical distancing guidelines. 

The City of Racine reminds residents that while the City is suspending enforcement, other local businesses, institutions, or private residences can still require masks and that if you are unvaccinated, the CDC guidance is to still wear a mask, use social distancing, and wash hands frequently.

For information on how to get a COVID-19 vaccine in Racine, visit racinecoronavirus.org/racine-covid-19-vaccine.

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