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Dane County

Dane County eases gathering restrictions as Covid-19 cases continue to fall

Public Health Madison & Dane County urges local residents to protect that progress by remaining mindful of risk

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As Covid-19 declines in Dane County, indoor and outdoor gathering restrictions have been eased and most sports are now allowed, as part of a new order that went into effect Feb. 10.

Public Health Madison & Dane County’s Emergency Order #13 will be in effect for 28 days.

“This order loosens restrictions on important parts of daily life, and I am hopeful that we are able to continue on this path as we move into spring,” Public Health Madison & Dane County Director Janel Heinrich said in a release. “As we cautiously adjust our orders in recognition of improving conditions, and as we vaccinate more people, we will continue to monitor where we stand. As we saw in the fall, things can change quickly and we all need to do our part to prevent disease spread.”

Under the new order:

• Indoor gatherings with food or drink are limited to 25 people. Indoor gatherings without food or drink are limited to 50 people. Individuals must maintain six feet of physical distancing at indoor gatherings and masks are required.

• Outdoor gatherings with food or drink are limited to 100 people. Without food or drink, outdoor gatherings are limited to 150 people. Individuals at outdoor gatherings must maintain six feet physical distancing.

• Masks are required at all outdoor gatherings of more than 50 people.

• Masks are required while participating in outdoor sports, including drills, practices, scrimmages, games or competitions, unless the sport is played individually or played with physical distancing at all times.

• Games and competitions can happen for all types of sports. In most situations, participants must wear masks. Six feet of physical distancing is required except when an individual is actively participating in a sporting event.

• Sports that cannot maintain physical distancing at all times are limited to 25 individuals indoors and 100 individuals outdoors, not including employees.

• All sports must have a hygiene policy, cleaning policy, and protective measure policy.

• A previous rule that limited childcare and four-year old kindergarten to groups of 15 has been allowed to expire. Indoor youth settings must follow gathering limits.

• Temporary retail stores are able to operate under the same requirements as permanent retail stores.

When Order #12 was issued on Jan. 11, Dane County’s seven-day case average was 213, and 71 people were hospitalized with Covid-19. As of Feb. 8, the seven-day case average was 107 and there were 63 people hospitalized. Over 11% of the Dane County population has received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

The distinction between gatherings with and without food is intentional in the new order, officials said.

“Gatherings that include food and drink mean that people are removing masks, which increases the opportunity for disease to spread,” said Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway. That “makes practical sense, especially as we learn more about the new, more contagious, variants,” Rhodes-Conway said.

All actions and activities have risk during this pandemic, and new cases, while down, still indicate high risk, Public Health Madison & Dane County officials said.

“Limiting opportunities for people to be in crowded, confined spaces is an important public health strategy, especially until more of the population is vaccinated,” today’s release said.

Public Health Madison & Dane County says it is safest to:

• Limit your contact with people you don’t live with.

• Wear a mask when you are with people you don’t live with.

• Maintain six feet of distance from people you don’t live with.

• Limit the activities you engage in on a daily or weekly basis.

• Spend time outdoors, where the virus can more easily disperse in open air.

“Our approach has always been to return to normalcy both incrementally and cautiously. Areas that have opened up too rapidly or without the right precautions in place have higher levels of infection, strains on contact tracing, and the possibility of an overwhelmed healthcare system. By loosening restrictions in a phased manner, as we are today, we’re maintaining that measured approach,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi.

The previous order was in place for 28 days and subsequent orders will continue to be issued in 28 day increments, which is two incubation periods of COVID-19 illness.

“Dane County has continued to have infection rates that are below surrounding counties and other parts of the state,” said Jerry Halverson, MD, Chair of the Board of Health. “This is a testament to the phased approach they are taking to protect the health and safety of residents.”

Provisions that remained unchanged between Order #12 and Order #13 include:

• Masks are required in enclosed buildings, while driving with people who are not part of your household, and outdoors at a restaurant or tavern. The types of masks allowed was updated to reflect new CDC recommendations.

• Businesses continue to be limited to 50% of approved building capacity and must have written cleaning and hygiene policies in place.

• Indoor seating at taverns continues to not be allowed; customers may enter taverns only to order, pick-up, and pay for food or beverage.

• Provisions for schools, continuing education and higher education institutions, industry-specific requirements, health care, public health, human service, infrastructure, manufacturing, government, and religious entities and groups remain unchanged.

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