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Dane County health officials are outlining a new plan to reopen the county, hopeful it can progress quickly with the help of community adherence to guidelines.

“We know it’s hard,” said Janel Heinrich, director of Public Health Madison & Dane County. “I know it’s hard to not be close to friends and loved ones. This is where we are for right now.”

But Heinrich said we’re getting closer to being able to return to some kind of normalcy.

“We think it’s important. Orders have changed so much so quickly that they haven’t always allowed for time to be ready for what is in that order and what is coming next,” she said.

Starting Tuesday, an emergency order removes travel restrictions and the criminal penalty for violating the county’s Safer at Home Order, along with allowing tennis courts and disc golf courses to reopen. It also permits businesses to conduct operations to prepare for a safe reopening.

The order is part of the county’s newly announced Forward Dane plan.

“We want to provide information about what to expect and what you can do to prepare,” Heinrich said.

Dane criteria

Source: Public Health Madison & Dane County

The plan takes into account nine metrics, including COVID-19 cases per day, tests conducted, and community spread to determine when to move on to the next phase.

With the new order, the county is going into the “Prepare for Safe Reopen Phase” until at least May 26. At that point, the county will determine if criteria has been satisfied to enter Phase One of the plan.

“That’s when salons can open and you may be able to get more than takeout from your restaurant,” Heinrich said.

In Phase One, Heinrich said most businesses will be able to reopen at up to 25% capacity. In Phases Two and Three, restrictions are loosened.

Health officials don’t want to move too quickly. Each phase will last a minimum of two weeks, which is equal to one COVID-19 incubation period.

While it’s not where most of us want to be, Heinrich said what we do right now will determine where we end up and how quickly we get there.

“I’d like to say there’s hope, but we also need people to stay home,” she said. “The more we can kind of keep on doing what we’ve been doing, the better off we’re going to be.”

Phase Four begins when a vaccine is available. For a breakdown of what each Phase means and the criteria needed to get there, the full Forward Dane plan can be found here. To keep track of which criteria are met, visit Public Health Madison & Dane County’s website.