Person standing at a podium wearing a maskDane County, like the rest of the state of Wisconsin, continues to see rising case counts and hospitalizations from COVID-19. Every gathering that is held is an opportunity for disease spread and prolongs the pandemic. Since you can feel fine and still spread COVID-19 to others, limiting gatherings and close contact with others keeps more people healthy.

We are issuing a new Emergency Order #10, effective at 12:01am on Wednesday, November 18, which prohibits indoor gatherings of any size, and limits outdoor gatherings to 10 people. 

See our news release for details. Watch our press conference and read the remarks from our Director, Janel Heinrich, below:

Good afternoon.

I stand before you here to stress, once again, how concerning the COVID-19 trends are in our community.

On September 9th, a spike in cases resulted in 487 people diagnosed with COVID on one day—which at the time was a shocking new record. Now, that’s our new normal. On November 11th, we reported 492 people diagnosed with COVID ; the next day, another 624; and the following day, another 697.

Contact tracing is impossible to keep up with at these numbers, and they are only trending upward. From February 15 to July 15 (5 months), 3,301 people tested positive for COVID-19 in Dane County. From November 5 to November 11 (7 days), 3,302 people tested positive. We have gone from 21 hospitalizations on 9/21 to 174 hospitalizations today. The growth of illness in Dane County is frankly alarming.

Public Health is very concerned about trends in the data. And we are also afraid for the people behind those numbers—for everyone in our community. We are concerned when we hear that UW Hospital is opening up their 8th COVID wing. We worry when we hear that the amount of ICU beds available on a given day are in the single digits. We toss and turn at night thinking about what could happen to our friends, neighbors, and loved ones who are at risk of severe COVID illness, as well as our loved ones with other health problems who might not get the best or quickest care. We are afraid of how much worse this could get if these trends continue.  

We also have hope. We know that this virus can be controlled, and we know how to control it. We can make the choice to put on a mask, to stand farther apart, and to stay home instead of gathering. We know it’s possible because we have done it before, and we have seen other places in our country and around the world do it too. As dire as our current situation is, we have the power to turn it around and to change the course of this pandemic if we change our behaviors now.

We are putting out new orders today, effective Wednesday, November 18th, that will limit the number of people allowed at a gathering to 0 indoors and 10 outdoors. This means that you should not meet up with anyone outside your household—friends, family, coworkers, or teammates—in an indoor space. We are taking this strict measure ahead of Thanksgiving, and will continue it for at least 28 days.

Right now, we all need to stop gathering together, even in small groups. A quarter of people testing positive indicated they attended a gathering or party in the past two weeks. These proportions have remained stable—in the past month, as cases have reached record high levels, the percentage who report attending a gathering has not changed. According to a university-developed risk assessment calculator, a gathering of ten people in Dane County has a 32% chance that at least one COVID-19 positive person will be present. This increases to 44% for a group size of 15, and 62% for a group size of 25. In neighboring counties, the risk is even more elevated. And these people live with others who they come into contact with and then get sick.  With the amount of COVID currently spreading throughout Dane County, it is not safe to gather right now, not even in small groups. We need to quickly lower the number of people attending gatherings, from small household gatherings to large wedding receptions, so that we can reduce the opportunity for COVID to spread; to  break the chain of transmission.

This isn’t easy for most of us. It’s hard for a lot of us to imagine the upcoming holidays without seeing loved ones in person. But this is our chance to make new traditions and to celebrate together while being physically apart. And we will be grateful that our new traditions will mean that our loved ones stay healthy and safe. We are hopeful that through these orders and through our choices, we will slow the growth of COVID-19 in Dane County and see a brighter future ahead.

Thank you.

A prior version of this post had an earlier draft of remarks. The remarks used in the conference are now included above. 

This content is free for use with credit to the City of Madison - Public Health Madison & Dane County and a link back to the original post.