Madison Mayor: Community needs to 'double down' on staying home, social distancing

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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- Madison's mayor is asking the community to "double down" on social distancing and following the public health order to stay home. Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said the city is still seeing sports teams gather in parks, large parties in people's homes and other "unwise social gatherings."

"This is not OK," Rhodes-Conway said. "It jeopardizes the most vulnerable in our community."

Public Health Madison & Dane County also said it continues to receive hundreds of reports each week of individuals gathering and business owners taking actions that are not in compliance with Safer at Home.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said the data in Dane County is promising, but it will only stay that way if people continue to follow the public health order.

The slow increase in confirmed cases in Dane County, as well as the reduced follow-up needed by Public Health staff to identify close contacts of individuals who have COVID-19 diagnoses, indicates that physical distancing measures have produced promising outcomes so far, state health officials said.

"We are encouraged by the data we're seeing, but this is far from over," said Janel Heinrich, Director of Public Health Madison & Dane County. "It might not seem like following the orders all the time is necessary, but every action we take directly impacts, and can harm, our community by increasing the chance for COVID-19 to spread."

The mayor is urging people not to gather for Passover, Easter and Ramadan. She said even though it's important for people to connect with their families and friends around the holidays, gatherings of more than 10 people are not allowed under the Safer at Home Order.

"Keep in mind, you can safely view or listen to almost any form of religious services though television, radio, online video recordings, live streams, or podcasts," she said. "Speak to your religious or spiritual leaders to learn about other ways you can practice from your home."

Rhodes-Conway said friends and families can still connect and share traditions virtually over Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, Facebook Live, and other similar services.

She is encouraging anyone who has a creative way to stay socially connected to send their ideas to, so she can share them in a future blog post.

"It is important to understand that this is our new normal," Rhodes-Conway said.

She said the community needs everyone to do the following:

  • Avoid nonessential travel: "UW students, we miss you but do not travel back to Madison. Don't put yourself, your roommates, and Madison even more at risk - stay where you are to save lives."

  • Stay safer at home: "Can you make less frequent essential trips to places like the grocery store and pharmacy? Plan to get what you need in one weekly trip. Travel to the store alone instead of with other people you live with. Order items you need online. Many local businesses are offering curbside pick-up."

  • Do not gather: "We've heard of neighborhood block parties or people who are meeting up to walk six feet apart. We understand the need to connect with friends and family, but any gathering is in violation of the order. Do not gather. Do not host parties, even if you're outside, even if you're six feet apart. The six feet apart guidance is for people you have to see-like at a grocery store-not a loophole for being able to see people you want to see."
  • Rhodes-Conway said getting outside is great for physical and mental health, but she is asking people to go the park solo or only with people in one household. She said people should not meet up with friends or family, even if they are six feet apart.

    "State parks are closed. City and county parks remain open, but park equipment and sports courts are closed," she said. "Do not visit a park if it's crowded. If a parking lot is full, that's a good indicator that it will be hard to maintain physical distancing."

    The mayor is also reminding the community to support local businesses by ordering online, and using curbside and delivery options.

    "Like you, I am eager for the day when we can return to some of our old habits," Rhodes-Conway said. "Here in Wisconsin, we are still in the beginning stages of this pandemic and we don't yet know when we will be able to ease the restrictions on physical distancing."