FILE - Wisconsin State Capitol

The Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin.

(The Center Square) – Madison and Dane County residents will have to wear their masks once again.

The city and county’s joint public health office, Public Health Madison & Dane County, on Tuesday reinstated its indoor mask mandate.

“As cases continue to increase, requiring face coverings is an easy added layer of protection to further help keep people safe, including our youngest children not yet eligible to be vaccinated,” PHMDC director Janel Heinrich said.

The new mandate takes effect Thursday.

Heinrich said a spike in coronavirus positives, driven by the delta variant, forced the return of the mask mandate.

“On July 19, our 7-day average number of cases was 19, and on August 12, the 7-day average increased by 382% to 91.6,” Heinrich said in her announcement.

While the number of coronavirus positives has been spiking for weeks, the number of people fighting a serious case of the virus has remained flat.

The state’s Department of Health Services reported just 61 people in the hospital with the virus in all of south-central Wisconsin, which includes Madison, Janesville, Beloit, and a number of other communities.

DHS is reporting almost no change in Wisconsin’s coronavirus death numbers. DHS on Monday said Wisconsin is averaging three coronavirus deaths per day, which is pretty much where Wisconsin has been for months.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi pointed to hospitalizations in other states as a justification for Madison and Dane County’s return to masks.

“With our kids heading back to school and hospitals in other parts of the country overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases, moving from a mask recommendation to a requirement is a common sense step to prevent disease spread and protect the kids in our community who can’t get vaccinated yet,” Parisi said.

Thousands of students are due back at the University of Wisconsin’s main campus over the next three weeks. UW-Madison is requiring all students to wear masks while inside university buildings. The school on Monday extended that mask requirement to football fans who are in the indoor portions of Camp Randall Stadium as well.