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Dane County eases restrictions on indoor gatherings


Public Health Madison & Dane County has issued Emergency Order #11, which goes into effect tomorrow, rolling back restrictions on indoor gatherings and other restrictions put into place November 17.

The order mirrors much of Order #9 and allows indoor gatherings of up to 10 people, with physical distancing and face coverings, and allows outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people, with physical distancing.

“The number of people being diagnosed with COVID-19 in the recent weeks has fallen significantly, and for that we are thankful, but our burden of illness is still very high and hospitalizations are high. We ask that everyone continue to limit gathering with others for the health and safety of the community,” Public Health Madison & Dane County Director Janel Heinrich said in a statement.

When Order #10 was issued on November 17, the seven-day case average was 487, and 158 people were hospitalized with COVID-19. Today the seven-day case average is 171 and there are 135 people hospitalized with COVID-19. Since November 1, 54 Dane County residents have died of COVID-19.

PHMDC officials acknowledged that testing is also down sharply — on November 17, the county was processing 6,042 tests per day on average; today, that number has fallen to 3,452. However, the number of cases has dropped faster than the number of tests and the positive test rate is also down sharply. The number of tests has fallen 43 percent, while the number of cases is down 65 percent.

The positive test rate on November 17 was 8.1 percent; today it is 4.9 percent.

“It has been 315 days since the first case in Dane County. We said from day one that our response would follow the data, and we are doing that today. We hope the decline in new cases will soon be mirrored in a decline in hospitalizations, but we will remain vigilant and watch these developments closely,” said Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway.

Although small gatherings are allowed, it is still safest to only gather with household members, as gatherings remain a driver of spread, PHMDC said in a press release. Over a quarter of all people diagnosed with COVID-19 report attending a gathering in the two weeks prior to their diagnosis.

“A very strict order was warranted in November given the steep increase in cases. Relaxing the order does not mean we have won the battle, but we are headed in the right direction. We must all understand that our actions have a direct correlation to the cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, and as a result, dictate the health and safety of our community, and subsequent orders,” County Executive Joe Parisi said in a statement.

The previous order was in place for 28 days and subsequent orders will continue to be issued in 28 day increments to include two incubation periods of COVID-19 illness and respond to the latest local data.

PHMDC said no citations have been issued for violations under the previous order, but that violations were found and that 45 businesses would be either referred to the City Attorney’s office for a long-form complaint or issued a citation.

A summary of provisions in Order #11 include:

  • Allows indoor gatherings of up to 10 people (not including employees), with physical distancing and face coverings.
  • Allows outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people (not including employees), with physical distancing.
  • Businesses continue to be limited to 50% of approved building capacity and must have written cleaning and hygiene policies in place.
  • At restaurants, indoor dine-in capacity is still limited to 25% of approved seating capacity levels, with physical distancing between parties. Individual tables must all be from the same household or living unit but are no longer limited to 6 or fewer people. There are no other changes.
  • Indoor seating at taverns continues to not be allowed; customers may enter taverns only to order, pick-up, and pay for food or beverage.

See the full order for all details or see this blog post summary.