A Madison-based social justice organization hosted a virtual forum Wednesday on the first phase of reopening Dane County, featuring a panel of local officials and experts.
The organization that hosted the panel, Freedom Inc., wanted to give people the chance to learn more about what the first phase of reopening Dane County meant for businesses, courts and communities. The virtual panel, which was streamed live on Facebook, featured talks from UW epidemiologist Dr. Nasia Safdar, Madison school board member Ananda Mirilli, Dane County Judge Everett Mitchell and Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway.
When the Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned Governor Tony Evers’ “Safer at Home” order on May 13, the county extended the order that same day. Last Friday, the county announced plans to begin Forward Dane, Dane County’s phased reopening program. Phase one was set to begin Tuesday.
During phase one, all businesses — such as restaurants, gyms, salons and retail stores — can reopen at 25 percent capacity. Childcare services may also reopen, with no more than 15 to a group. Outdoor gatherings of 50 or fewer are allowed, with physical distaning, as well as gathering at private residences of 10 people or fewer, with physical distancing.
As for schools, virtual instruction will continue through the rest of the school year, but basic operations and activities that are approved by Public Health will be permitted, according to the document.
“Public health has developed the Forward Dane plan based on metrics on how to stay on top of the virus, monitoring the percent of positive tests, looking at our ability to do contact tracing,” Rhodes-Conway said during the panel.
Phase one will be active for at least 14 days, which is the incubation period for the virus. If the county meets the necessary criteria to continue on, the county may then move to phase two.
Dane County Judge Everett Mitchell also gave insight on court sessions. Since the start of social distancing policies, the courts have been able to livestream court sessions. Friday evening, The Wisconsin Supreme Court issued an order that allows circuit courts and municipal courts to resume in-person proceedings, if it can be done safely.
Ultimately, restrictions are slowly being lifted so if the number of cases begins to increase again, they can be tightened.
“While we hope that by following this plan our path to reopening will be linear, we cannot predict the path of this virus,” the Forward Dane document said. “It’s possible that we may have to tighten or loosen policies so we can all stay safe and healthy and keep our healthcare and public health systems from becoming overwhelmed. We have created Forward Dane using data and the best evidence available so we can ensure our peaks stay low and we avoid the need for additional Safer at Home orders.”
The full document is available on the Public Health site.