To thwart the continued transmission of COVID-19, the Madison Police Department began instituting measures to limit social gatherings in the downtown area with the support of UW-Madison leadership.
In a letter sent to downtown apartment buildings, Madison Police Department Acting Chief Victor Wahl said students attending gatherings may be fined a minimum of $376 for “permit[ting] a health nuisance.”
To avoid a fine, indoor gatherings must be limited to 10 people or less and outdoor gatherings to 25 people or less.
The “final warning” sent to residents specifically referenced any gatherings related to the start of UW-Madison’s football season and the annual Freakfest Halloween celebration, which was recently-cancelled. Deputy Mayor Katie Crawley confirmed Tuesday night there would be no festival due to public health guidelines.
“There will not be any festivities or any other City-permitted event the weekend of Oct. 31, 2020,” the MPD stated in a letter to area residents. “Additionally, traditional autumn football gatherings, like tailgating and beer gardens, must be substantially curtailed.”
In addition to citing violations of the health department’s Emergency Order #9, the police will pay close attention to underage drinkers, individuals providing alcohol to underaged drinkers and individuals found to be openly intoxicated.
“House parties and other gatherings contrary to this order will not be tolerated,” the letter read.
The letter also referenced support from the UW-Madison Dean of Students office in taking action against house parties and fall festivities. The statement comes weeks after the university urged law enforcement to take action in limiting off-campus gatherings.
“Until those agencies with enforcement authority take additional action, we shouldn’t expect to see a rapid decline in cases in Dane County,” UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank said in a press release.
Blank spoke with representatives of the school’s two student newspapers in late September and said it would be up to local authorities to intervene in off-campus social gatherings.
“I don’t control what happens off-campus. I have no authority at the bars, I have no authority on State Street,” Blank said. “That has to be a partnership with [Public Health Madison & Dane County] in them enforcing their health regulations in those sorts of facilities and settings.”
Blank also noted the university can issue warnings to students and pursue disciplinary action, but it only pertains to on-campus gatherings or with the aid of law enforcement off-campus.
“If you choose to have an illegal house party or gathering and you are identified by the Madison Police Department, your information will be sent to the UW-Madison Dean of Students Office,” the MPD’s warning concluded.