Public Health Madison & Dane County issued Emergency Order #10 on Tuesday, prohibiting indoor gatherings of any size and limited outdoor gatherings to 10 people or fewer, with physical distancing. The order goes into effect on November 18 at 12:01am.
Anyone hosting a gathering could face a fine of $1,000 plus court costs.
County officials scheduled an in-person news conference outside the Alliant Energy Center for Tuesday at 12:15 pm to announce the order.
“This virus does not spread on its own. We spread it. Every gathering – no matter the size – is an opportunity for disease spread and prolongs the pandemic,” Public Health Madison & Dane County Director Janel Heinrich said in a statement. “We are hopeful that with the community’s cooperation, we can bring our numbers down and avoid more hospitalizations and deaths.”
In-person games, sports, competitions, group exercise classes, meetings, trainings, movies, events, and conferences are all considered mass gatherings. School classrooms, however, are not.
Indoor gatherings of any people who do not live together are prohibited. Outdoor mass gatherings are limited to 10 people who do not live together, with physical distancing. The previous limit for gatherings was 10 indoors and 25 outdoors, with physical distancing.
The order is in effect until December 16, 2020 at 12:01 am and continues to require face coverings and limit the capacity for most businesses to 50%, along with many other provisions.
“Our hospitals are overflowing, our doctors and nurses are running ragged, and everywhere we turn, there is sickness, creating a challenge like none other we have ever seen,” County Executive Joe Parisi said in a statement. “These new orders, like their predecessors, are designed to call attention to where we are seeing the greatest amount of disease spread and interrupt the virus’ quick movement through our community.”
This additional order is informed by data collected from contact tracing interviews and compliance checks, according to a press release from Public Health Madison & Dane County. People having close contact with others is driving the spread of COVID-19, the press release said. From October 27 through November 9, 31% of people with COVID-19 reported non-household close contact with another case. Nearly a quarter of people who tested positive attended a gathering or party in the past two weeks.
National data also continue to indicate gatherings—particularly in crowded indoor environments with poor ventilation—remain a significant risk. As gatherings increasingly move inside due to cold weather, it is another way risk continues to be magnified.
“We cannot pretend that this is going to be a normal Thanksgiving. We know that many of the people we want to spend time with are very vulnerable to the virus,” Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said in a statement. “We want our loved ones to be around not just for this one holiday, but for all the holidays and special occasions of our lives—the high school graduations, the weddings, and the reunions of the next 25 years, not just the next 25 days.”
Dane County is currently averaging 433 cases per day over a 7-day period, which is more than double the number of cases from a month ago.
As of November 17, 174 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in Dane County, including 48 in the ICU. Hospitals in the southern region are strained, with many at or near capacity. From October 27 through November 9, nine hospitals in the region reported at least one day of critical staffing shortage. One of these hospitals was within Dane County.
“We ask that everyone exercise good judgement and follow the orders. The intention of the order is not to penalize businesses or individuals, but to keep everyone safe during this pandemic,” Heinrich said in a statement.
The county and City of Madison may issue a fine of up to $1,000 for every violation of the health order, plus court costs. As a result, anyone hosting a gathering could see significant penalties.
To protect everyone, in addition to not gathering, Public Health asks people to use virtual options, work from home if able, wear a mask, avoid close contact with others, and stay home if you’re sick or feel off. Read more on our website: https://publichealthmdc.com/coronavirus.