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Public Health continues to recommend that people limit gatherings

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

The order mirrors much of Order #11 and allows indoor gatherings of up to 10 people, with physical distancing and face coverings. Outdoor gatherings of up to 50 people are now allowed, with physical distancing.

“The number of people being diagnosed with COVID-19 remains very high and new, more contagious virus variants are circulating in the world and United States. We know spending time outside with others is less risky than spending time together inside, so we have raised gathering limits outside in recognition of this research. We ask that everyone continue to limit gathering indoors for the health and safety of the community,” said Janel Heinrich, Director of Public Health Madison & Dane County.

When Order #11 was issued on December 16, the seven-day case average was 171, and 135 people were hospitalized with COVID-19. Today, the seven-day case average is 213 and there are 88 people hospitalized with COVID-19. In December, 79 Dane County residents died of COVID-19.

“Although we still have a high burden of disease, Dane County is doing better than the state in both number of people diagnosed with COVID-19 and dying of COVID-19. This shows the success of our orders in preventing illness and saving lives,” said Joe Parisi, Dane County Executive.

The current order will continue to prevent disease spread in our community. Although small gatherings are allowed, it is still safest to only gather with household members, as gatherings remain a driver of spread. If you do gather, wear a mask, keep it brief, keep it distanced, and stay outdoors if possible.

“We are experiencing a post-holiday increase in cases, so it is important to prioritize the health and safety of our community so it doesn’t become a larger surge. I know everyone is excited about the progress we are making on vaccine distribution, but we need to maintain our vigilance,” said Satya Rhodes-Conway, City of Madison Mayor.

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, and are developed in response to the latest local data.

"We are grateful our local health department continues to center their response in data and the constantly emerging science related to COVID-19 to keep our community well. We are all fatigued by COVID-19 but hopeful about the future. The more we can collectively continue to practice the mitigation strategies that keep us well, the better of we’ll all be as vaccine coverage continues to roll out in Dane County,” said Jerry Halverson, MD, Chair of the Board of Health.

A summary of provisions that changed between Order #11 and Order #12 include:

  • Allows outdoor gatherings of up to 50 people (not including employees), with physical distancing. (Previous limit was 25.)
  • At restaurants, indoor dine-in capacity is still limited to 25% of approved seating capacity levels, with physical distancing between parties. To determine whether an establishment is a restaurant or a tavern, gross receipts for the period July 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020 will be considered. (Previous period was July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020.)
  • Drive-in activities may now also offer outdoor seating, as long as it complies with gathering limits.
  • Physical distancing between individuals not from the same household or living unit must be maintained to the greatest extent possible for low risk sports. Games and competitions are allowed for low risk sports with physical distancing maintained to the greatest extent possible and in compliance with gathering limits. (Previously required physical distancing at all times. Physical distancing is still required at all times for medium and high-risk sports.)

These provisions are unchanged in Order #12:

  • 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.
  • Indoor gatherings limited to 10 people (not including employees), with physical distancing and face coverings.
  • 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 child care and youth settings, medium and high-risk sports, 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.

A previous version of this news release listed the current hospitalizations as 71. However, we have since learned a hospital in Dane County accidentally entered their total hospitalizations as 0 for that date, when there were actually 17. We have updated the release to reflect the correct number of hospitalizations for January 10, which is 88. This change does not impact the emergency order.


Health & Safety