Public Health urges residents to protect progress by still being mindful of risk

Public Health Madison & Dane County has issued Emergency Order #13. The order goes into effect February 10, at 12:01am and will be in effect for 28 days.

“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 Public Health Madison & Dane County. “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,” continued Heinrich.  

A summary of provisions that changed between Order #12 and Order #13 include:

  • Gathering limits indoors and outdoors increased.
    • A Gathering inside where food or drink is offered or provided is limited to 25 individuals. A Gathering inside where food or drink is not offered or provided is limited to 50 individuals.  Individuals must maintain six feet physical distancing and face coverings are required.
    • A Gathering outside where food or drink is offered or provided is limited to 100 individuals. A Gathering outside where food or drink is not offered or provided is limited to 150 individuals. Individuals must maintain six feet physical distancing.  Face coverings required at gatherings of more than 50 individuals.
  • Updated the types of face coverings that are allowed, and added additional face covering requirements for outdoor locations.
    • Outdoors while participating in a sporting event, including drills, practices, scrimmages, games or competitions, unless the sport is played individually, or played with physical distancing at all times.
    • Outdoors while attending a gathering of more than fifty (50) individuals.
  • Games and competitions are allowed for all sports. In most situations, individuals must wear face coverings.
    • 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.
  • Removal of provision to limit regulated childcare and four-year old kindergarten groups to 15. Indoor youth settings must follow gathering limits.
  • Temporary retail stores are able to operate under the same requirements as permanent retail stores.

When Order #12 was issued on January 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 there are 63 people hospitalized with COVID-19. Over 11% of the Dane County population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“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 Satya Rhodes-Conway, City of Madison Mayor.

All actions and activities have risk during this 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 your contact with people you don’t live with.
  • Wear a mask when you are 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 Joe Parisi, Dane County Executive. 

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.”

These provisions are unchanged between Order #12 and Order #13:

  • Face coverings are required in enclosed buildings, while driving with people who are not part of your household, and outdoors at a restaurant or tavern. The types of face coverings allowed was updated to reflect new CDC recommendations.
  • Businesses continue to be limited to 50% of approved building capacity and must have written cleaning and hygiene policies in place.
  • Indoor seating at taverns continues to not be allowed; customers may enter taverns only to order, pick-up, and pay for food or beverage.
  • Provisions for schools, continuing education and higher education institutions, industry-specific requirements, health care, public health, human service, infrastructure, manufacturing, government, and religious entities and groups remain unchanged.  

See the full order for all details.

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