Madison & Dane County Public Health officials last week announced a new health order that increases limits on public gatherings and makes slight changes to face masking requirements.

“Because our COVID-19 vaccination rates are among the highest in the state, and the number of cases we’ve seen each day have stabilized, we are increasing gathering and capacity limits for all businesses,” said Janel Heinrich, Public Health Madison & Dane County director. “Although more spaces are opening, people should still participate in activities based on their comfort with risks because although we are making progress, we aren’t out of the woods yet.”

A press release from the health department provides a list of changes in the new order that take effect May 5.

It increases:

-indoor gatherings with food and drink to 350 people or less, with physical distancing except when in transit.

-indoor gatherings without food and drink to 500 or less with physical distancing except when in transit.

-outdoor gathering limits. These are limited only to ensure people who do not live together can maintain distance, except when in transit.

The new order also increases seating limits for taverns and restaurants to 75 percent of the space capacity. Previously, seating was limited to 50% for restaurants and 25% for taverns.

Other businesses are limited to 75% capacity.

The only changes to face coverings are similar to those recently announced by the Centers for Disease Control. Under the county’s new order, people who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear face coverings or maintain 6-feet distancing when outdoors or in a private, enclosed spaced with other individuals who are fully vaccinated.

Facemasks are still required inside public establishments.

“Vaccination is our path out of this pandemic,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. “People who are vaccinated are able to do things safely that unvaccinated people can’t, like hugging loved ones and gathering with friends without having to worry about masking or distance. Get vaccinated and get back to doing the things you love.”

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