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The continued decline in the number of COVID-19 diagnoses partnered with the percentage of the Dane County population that has already received at least one dose of the vaccine has prompted Public Health Madison & Dane County on Monday to put forth Emergency Order #13, effective for 28 days beginning at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 10.

When Order #12 was issued on Jan. 11, the seven-day case average was 213, and 71 people were hospitalized with COVID-19. The seven-day case average as of Monday is 107 and there are 63 people hospitalized with COVID-19. More than 11% of the Dane County population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“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,” said Janel Heinrich, Director of PHMDC. “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.”

As part of the new order, indoor gatherings where food or drink is provided is limited to 25 individuals; indoor gatherings where food or drink is not provided is limited to 50 people. Under order #12, all indoor gatherings – regardless of the presence of food or beverages – was limited to 10 people.

The size of outdoor gatherings has also increased to 100 people when food or drink is provided and 150 when food or drink is not offered. Previously, outdoor gatherings were capped at a maximum of 50 people.

While the number of people allowed to gather indoors and outdoors has increased, individuals must maintain six feet of physical distance and wear face coverings per PHMDC.

“Gatherings that include food and drink mean that people are removing masks, which increases the opportunity for disease to spread. Distinguishing between gatherings that have food and drink, and those that don’t makes practical sense, especially as we learn more about the new, more contagious, variants,” said Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway.

In addition to gathering limits, the new order allows games and competitions for all sports. According to the order, in most situations, individuals must wear face coverings.

Other provisions include:

• Six feet physical distancing is required except when an individual is actively participating in the sport.

• 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.

Face coverings are required outdoors while actively taking part in sports where 6-feet of physical distancing cannot be maintained at all times including drills, practices, scrimmages, games and competitions.

Additionally, PHMDC order #13 has updated the requirements for types of face coverings to reflect the current CDC guidance of cloth coverings with two or more layers. Face coverings do not include: bandanas, single-layer neck gaiters, face shields, goggles, scarves, ski masks, balaclavas, shirt or sweater collars pulled up over the mouth and nose, or masks with slits, exhalation valves, or punctures.

PHMDC reminds people all actions and activities have risk during the pandemic, and new cases, while down, still indicate high risk. Limiting opportunities for people to be in crowded, confined spaces is an important public health strategy, especially until more of the population is vaccinated.

It is safest to:

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

• Wear a mask when 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.”To read the full order, visit https://publichealthmdc.com.

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