Dane Co. to allow indoor gatherings again, raises cap on outdoor ones

Photo courtesy: MGN
Photo courtesy: MGN(MGN)
Published: Dec. 15, 2020 at 12:12 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Declining numbers of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Dane Co. mean people will soon be allowed to gather indoors once again, so long as the crowd stays in the single digits.

Public Health Madison & Dane Co. issued a new emergency order that lifts the indoor gathering ban and replaces it with a cap of 10 people. The new mandate also raises the limit on outdoor gatherings to 25 people.

It will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday morning and is set to remain in effect for the next four weeks.

“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,” Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said.

Emergency Order 11 closely mirrors the one that was in place until Nov. 17, when skyrocketing new COVID-19 cases forced local health officials to ban indoor gatherings altogether. Some of the main provisions include: (as described by PHMDC):

· Allowing indoor gatherings of up to 10 people (not including employees), with physical distancing and face coverings.

· Allowing 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.

(Read PHMDC’s chart comparing the new emergency order and the current one)

The new order supersedes the one issued prior to Thanksgiving that banned all indoor gatherings and capped outdoor ones at 10 people, health officials explained.

“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,” Dane Co. Executive Joe Parisi said.

According to PHMDC numbers, when that ban went into effect, Dane Co. was averaging 487 new cases per day over the preceding week and 158 people were in the hospital because of the virus. Currently, the seven-day rolling average stands at 171 cases per day and 135 people are currently admitted into Dane Co. hospitals.

“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,” PHMDC Director Janel Heinrich said, urging everyone to continue limiting the number of gatherings they attend.

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