Dane Co. bans indoor gatherings, caps outdoor ones at 10 people

Published: Nov. 17, 2020 at 12:02 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 18, 2020 at 9:19 AM CST

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - All indoor gatherings in Dane Co. will be banned starting just after midnight Wednesday morning. In addition, all outdoor gatherings will be capped at 10 people, according to new restrictions laid out by Public Health Madison & Dane Co.

Health officials issued the new emergency order late Tuesday morning and it is set to go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday morning. According to the order, the indoor ban covers any property, although members of the same household do not count toward that cap.

With the nearly month-long order extending well past Thanksgiving, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway acknowledged the holiday will not be a normal one for Dane Co. families, adding that many of the people who we want to visit are also the most vulnerable to coronavirus.

“We want our loved ones to be around not just for this one holiday, but for all the holidays and special occasions of our lives—the high school graduations, the weddings, and the reunions of the next 25 years, not just the next 25 days,” she said.

For outdoor gatherings, the maximum number allowed falls from 25 to ten people, with social distancing required in all cases. However, it does maintain the 50 percent capacity limit for most businesses.

Among the gatherings identified by the agency as being affected include:

  • Concerts and festivals
  • Meetings or training sessions
  • Conferences
  • Performances or shows
  • Sporting events

Importantly, the University of Wisconsin campus is not bound by Dane Co. or Madison restrictions, so it is allowed to host events in line with its safety procedures.

Unsurprisingly, the order maintains the requirement for face coverings for:

  • Everyone over the age of five, with some exceptions;
  • Anyone in an enclosed location with others who are not members of their household;
  • Anyone in line to enter a building;
  • Anyone riding in a vehicle with someone who is not a member of their household, and;
  • Anyone outdoors at a bar or tavern.

According to PHMDC, a quarter of people in Dane Co. who tested positive admitted attending a gathering or party within the previous two weeks.

In all, the average number of people who have tested positive for the virus over the past week has more than doubled to 433 cases per day. Hospitals are nearing capacity with 174 patients admitted because of the virus, 48 of whom are intensive care units.

“Our hospitals are overflowing, our doctors and nurses are running ragged, and everywhere we turn, there is sickness, creating a challenge like none other we have ever seen,” Dane Co. Executive Joe Parisi said. He went on to explain the order targets where they are seeing the greatest amount of spread

In issuing the stricter guidelines, they pointed to a Georgia Tech assessment that found in a gathering of ten people there’s an approximately one-third chance one person is infected. That number nearly doubles to 62 percent in gatherings with more than 25 people.

“We ask that everyone exercise good judgement and follow the orders. The intention of the order is not to penalize businesses or individuals, but to keep everyone safe during this pandemic,” said Heinrich.

Her agency warned the Dane Co. or the City of Madison could issue fines of up to $1,000 per violation, plus court costs. Additionally, because each person over the cap is considered a separate violation, the total amount of the fines could quickly add up.

The section of the order affecting schools, namely that all public and private schools are only allowed to provide in-person instruction to K-2 students is still in the order. However, an asterisk attached to that sections states an injunction by the Wisconsin Supreme Court means that portion is currently not in effect.

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