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Dane County pre-holiday order nixes all indoor gatherings
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Dane County pre-holiday order nixes all indoor gatherings

Janel Heinrich presser (copy)

Janel Heinrich, director of Public Health Madison & Dane County, updates reporters on the local COVID-19 surge last week outside the Alliant Energy Center.

Public Health Madison & Dane County on Tuesday issued an order prohibiting indoor gatherings of any size involving people outside the household, and limiting outdoor gatherings to 10 people, and then only with physical distancing.

The order, which continues the county mask mandate and 50% capacity limit at businesses and 25% at restaurants, goes into effect on Wednesday, eight days before Thanksgiving. The order is in effect until Dec. 16. It comes as the county’s seven-day average reaches 433 cases a day, twice that of a month ago.

“We cannot pretend that this is going to be a normal Thanksgiving," said Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway in a statement announcing the order. "We know that many of the people we want to spend time with are very vulnerable to the virus.” 

So far, 22,848 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the county; 62 people have died.

“Every gathering – no matter the size – is an opportunity for disease spread and prolongs the pandemic,” said Dane County public health director Janel Heinrich in the statement. “We are hopeful that with the community’s cooperation, we can bring our numbers down and avoid more hospitalizations and deaths.”

The order nixes all in-person sporting events, conferences, movies, group exercise classes and any other indoor gatherings and replaces current limits of indoor gatherings of 10 and outdoor gatherings of 25. Violators could see a fine of $1,000, plus costs.

“Our hospitals are overflowing, our doctors and nurses are running ragged, and everywhere we turn, there is sickness, creating a challenge like none other we have ever seen," said County Executive Joe Parisi. "These new orders, like their predecessors, are designed to call attention to where we are seeing the greatest amount of disease spread and interrupt the virus' quick movement through our community."

The health department on Tuesday reported 174 COVID-19 inpatients in Dane County hospitals, a new record. Forty-eight of those were in intensive care, also a record. The department reported that many hospitals in the state’s southern region were at capacity or strained. In the two weeks before Nov. 9, nine hospitals in the region reported at least one day of critical staffing shortages, one of those in Dane County.

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Steven Elbow joined The Capital Times in 1999 and has covered law enforcement in addition to city, county and state government. He has also worked for the Portage Daily Register and has written for the Isthmus weekly newspaper in Madison.

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