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Avoid Labor Day parties, White House COVID-19 adviser says in Madison
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Avoid Labor Day parties, White House COVID-19 adviser says in Madison

Birx talking

Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, visited Madison on Monday to confer with state health officials.

The top COVID-19 adviser at the White House urged Wisconsin residents on Monday not to gather in large groups over the upcoming holiday weekend to prevent another surge of the coronavirus.

“Creating crowds in your backyard over Labor Day really needs to be avoided,” Dr. Deborah Birx said in Madison after meeting with state health officials. “Try to limit your barbecues to your immediate family.”

Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, is traveling around the country to meet with governors and others about ways to improve their COVID-19 response. In Wisconsin, the 24th state she has visited since late June, Birx met with state health officials and representatives from hospitals, long-term care providers, and mental health and vulnerable groups, she said.

“We do see improvement in many of the counties in Wisconsin, but we also see some smaller, rural counties where we’re seeing an uptick in cases,” Birx said during a news conference at the Michael Best & Friedrich law firm’s Downtown office.

All but seven of the state’s 72 counties have high COVID-19 activity, with the others seeing medium activity, the state Department of Health Services said last week. The highest positive case rates were in Iron, Sawyer, Oconto, Marinette and Florence counties — all in the rural north.

Birx and media

Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, speaks to the media Monday at the Michael Best & Friedrich law firm after meeting with state officials.

On Monday, Wisconsin reported 266 new cases of COVID-19, the lowest daily total in more than two months, though cases are often lower on Mondays than on other days. The state’s seven-day average of daily cases has been dropping since late July, though it went up slightly last week.

Recently, more than 8% of tests statewide have been positive, on average. As of Monday, 290 patients with COVID-19 were hospitalized, down from 414 on Aug. 10.

About 183,000 people have died from COVID-19 nationwide, including 1,122 in Wisconsin. A widely cited model by the University of Washington predicts more than 317,000 deaths by Dec. 1, including 2,340 in the state.

Birx encouraged residents to keep wearing masks and staying 6 feet apart, in addition to avoiding large gatherings. Such steps could change the fatality forecasts, she said.

“There’s strong scientific evidence about how the masks block respiratory particles, but there’s also strong public health ... implementation evidence,” she said. “We can change our future.”

She called the UW System’s COVID-19 plan “forward-leaning,” saying interim President Tommy Thompson has set aside parts of dorms for those who become infected, in addition to setting up surveillance and surge testing of students. “He’s not only planned to find the cases but also care for those cases,” she said.

To students who attend large parties where people aren’t wearing masks, she issued a directive: “More than likely you became exposed to the virus. Please go and get tested.”

When K-12 schools will be able to reopen depends on the people who live near them, she said.

Birx holding map

Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, said COVID-19 cases have declined in southern states in recent weeks after many places implemented mask orders, decreased restaurant capacity and restricted hours at bars.

“Schools are strictly a reflection of the community,” Birx said. “The way to decrease the number of cases in schools is to decrease the number of cases in the community.”

Birx spoke against the concept of “herd immunity,” which a Washington Post report said another of President Donald Trump’s top medical advisers is proposing. Dr. Scott Atlas, who joined the White House this month, has pushed the idea of allowing all but the most vulnerable to acquire COVID-19 and become immune to it, the Post said.

But herd immunity involves letting some people die as others develop immunity from infection, Birx said. “I don’t think anyone in the United States, including the president, was willing to accept that level of mortality,” she said.

Among people older than 70, roughly seven of 100 people infected with the coronavirus die, she said. “Whose seven would that be? Your grandmother? My parents?”

10 Madison restaurants with enhanced outdoor seating thanks to city's Streatery program

Outdoor seating has been a lifeline this summer for some restaurants lucky enough to have it, but it comes with challenges, and worse, an approaching end date with colder weather on the way.

About 87 restaurant and bar owners are taking advantage of the city's "Streatery" program, modeled after efforts around the world to help restaurants during COVID-19 restrictions by helping them increase their outdoor dining areas by extending into streets, parking spaces, parking lots and alleys. Twenty-six other applications are pending in Madison.

The efforts are in response to public heath data that suggests that al fresco dining is a safer option than eating indoors in restaurants. Or as Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich put it, "a restaurant patio is a calculated risk."

Here are 10 Madison restaurants and bars taking part in Streatery.

The Ohio Tavern has seating for 22 outside the bar at 224 Ohio Ave. Under the city's Streatery program, it was able to extend its outdoor seat…

Brasserie V, 1923 Monroe St., has had its outdoor seating since late July with four tables on the sidewalk in front, and six tables in back. T…

On the 1900 block of Atwood Avenue a Streatery cafe zone uses beer barrels and lattice to create patio seating extending into parking spots wi…

Ogden's North Street Diner, 560 North St., has six tables seating as many as 16 people behind the restaurant, which serves breakfast and lunch…

Canteen, 111 S. Hamilton St., has 23 tables which can seat 54 people. Customers order at a pick-up window on the Carroll Street side. Canteen …

"Madison's Official Birthday Place," the Nitty Gritty, 223 N. Frances St., has added six tables on the Frances Street side of the building tha…

Original Pancake House, 5518 University Ave., is using six of its parking spaces for outdoor seating. Its 13 outdoor tables are now covered wi…

The owners of Daisy Cafe & Cupcakery, 2827 Atwood Ave., spent $17,000 repaving their parking lot, and $3,000 on outdoor furniture, and can…

Bierock, 2911 N. Sherman Ave., has been using sidewalk space in the Northside TownCenter for outdoor dining under the Streatery program. The p…

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107 State is on the top block of State Street in what was formerly Capital Tap Haus, Wisconsin Brewing Tap Haus, and briefly Freiburg Tap Haus…

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