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Officials clarify statements about visiting downtown Madison amid a surge in COVID-19 cases

Published: Sep. 14, 2020 at 10:15 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Dane County Public Health officials are clarifying statements suggesting people avoid the downtown area following a surge in COVID-19 cases linked to the UW-Madison campus.

NBC15 followed up after hearing concerns from several downtown business owners about the statements which were made in a recent tweet. Public health says the intent behind the message was not to discourage people from coming downtown, rather to raise awareness about self-monitoring for symptoms.

“It’s definitely important for downtown to have people come especially after these last four months,” said John Hayes, Ower of Goodman’s Jewelers on State Street.

He is one of several area business owners who say they had some concerns when the downtown area was singled out.

Some say their customers took the message from public health to mean avoid downtown all together, which began impacting business in the area, according to some store owners.

“People have a hard enough time wanting to come downtown with everything boarded up as it is,” said Hayes.

Colin Murray, Executive Director with Dane Buy Local says everyone needs to work together to stay safe, but also to support local businesses who have had a rough year.

“Downtown merchants have just been hit one after another with various things. We want to take precautions in visiting downtown but i would not discourage people,” said Murray.

Public health says it did not intend to discourage downtown visitors, only to highlight the concern over the outbreak happening around the UW campus.

“I don’t think that its anymore dangerous to go downtown than it is to go to other places in our community," said Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway.

While the original tweets on the subject came from public health and not from her office, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway says the county is seeing more cases right now and many from those who identify as students.

She says those who interact with UW students are encouraged to be cautious.

“I don’t necessarily think that’s tied to a geography. As long as we’re all keeping in mind how the virus is transmitted, I think it is possible to move through our days in a way that’s safe,” said the Mayor.

Public health says given the large concentration of cases around campus they’re reminding people in the area to monitor for any symptoms.

Health officials say always wear a mask and continue to avoid large gatherings.

Copyright 2020 WMTV. All rights reserved.

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