Spring and fall clean-up often prompt residents to open their garages for sales of clothing they no longer wear or household items they no longer need.
But during this pandemic time, Waunakee Village Board members are warning residents that hosting such sales may not be safe.
Waunakee’s spring garage sales, which are advertised online and through maps, were cancelled this year due to safety concerns. The event can bring thousands to the village, including some from out of state.
The fall garage sales, with less advertisement and no maps, are typically held the weekend following Labor Day. They draw fewer people, and this year, a number are planned.
Still, during the Waunakee Village Board’s discussion about the COVID-19 pandemic at their Sept. 8 meeting, the topic of these sales arose as village officials expressed concern.
Village President Chris Zellner said he received a text from a resident asking if he thought the sales would be well attended.
“Our garage sales bring a lot of people in from different communities to our community,” Zellner said. He asked Waunakee EMS director Scott Russell for advice to those hosting sales and asked about health department orders.
“I do have a little concern with regard to this right now, especially people going through and touching things right before other people,” Zellner said.
Russell said the sales have been one of his biggest concerns. He cautioned residents who have garage sales to take distancing precautions as stores have done.
“Put X’s on your driveway; put X’s up to where you’re going to be taking the money. Make sure everybody’s in masks and preferably goggles,” Russell said, adding gloves can also be used.
“When you think about this, for the last six months, we’ve been preaching to people, don’t hang out with anyone that’s not your immediate family if you don’t have to. And now you’re going to invite 300 people into your garage,” Russell added.
He advised residents to consider Public Health Madison Dane County’s orders regarding maximum limits for gatherings, he said.
According to the health department’s website, indoor gatherings are permitted with 10 individuals or fewer not including employees. Individuals must maintain physical distancing. Outdoor gatherings are permitted with 25 individuals or fewer not including employees. Individuals must maintain physical distancing.
Dr. Bill Ranum, a physician and village trustee, said he was also concerned.
“I spend a lot of time trying to keep people away from each other, and now how are we going to safely put them together unless they’re following the safe guidelines that all the other businesses are?” Ranum said. “I’m just as nervous as Scott is.”
Zellner confirmed with the village’s attorney, Bryan Kleinmaier, that village has no authority to stop the sales.
“This is not a village-sponsored event,” Kleinmaier said. He said he was unsure if the sales complied with the Dane County order, but if a household hosts a sale on their own, the issue becomes one of compliance.
“Dane County, I think, is really taking the lead on enforcement,” Kleinmaier said, adding if they are notified of a violation, they will enforce the order.
Gary Herzberg asked if a recommendation from the village board is warranted.
“I just don’t want to have this day show up… and have 200 to 300 people wandering the streets,” Herzberg added.
Trustee Phil Willems said he would like the village to release a notice discouraging residents from holding garage sales during this pandemic.
Village Administrator Todd Schmidt said he would issue a communication of caution in collaboration with the EMS director.