As Dane County has seen a decline in the number of COVID-19 cases and more people are getting vaccinations, Public health Madison & Dane County has announced the next step in the phased reopening.

Monday, public officials, along with the health department, announced Emergency Order #13, allowing larger indoor and outdoor gatherings starting at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 10. It will be in effect for 28 days.

The new order increases limits on:

-indoor gatherings, where food or drink is offered to 50 individuals and requires physical distancing of six feet and face coverings.

-outdoor gatherings where food or drink is offered to 100, requiring physical distancing, when more than 50 individuals are present, face coverings.

-outdoor gatherings where food or drink is not offered to 150 with physical distancing. If more than 50 individuals are present, face coverings are required.

Sports and youth

The reopening order also requires six feet physical distancing 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.

The order also removes a provision limiting regulated childcare and 4-year-old kindergarten groups to 15, but does require indoor youth settings to follow gathering limits in the new order.

Face coverings

The types of face coverings allowed have been changed in accordance with CDC recommendations. Cloth face coverings must be made with two or more layers of breathable fabric that is tightly woven (i.e., fabrics that do not let light pass through when held up to a light source). A face covering does 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.

When the previous emergency order was issued on Jan. 11, the seven-day case average was 213, and 71 people were hospitalized with COVID-19. Today, the seven-day case average is 107 and 63 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, according to a press release from Public Health Madison & Dane County. Over 11% of the Dane County population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“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,” said Janel Heinrich, Director of Public Health Madison & Dane County.

Health officials recommend practicing precautions during the pandemic, including limiting contact with those outside of your household. When in contact with others, wear a mask, practice physical distancing and spend time outdoors.

“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 Joe Parisi, Dane County Executive.

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