Public Health Madison & Dane County has declared a new emergency order effective Wednesday that will completely prohibit indoor gatherings and limit outdoor gatherings to ten people.
The health department issued Emergency Order #10, which will stay in effect until Dec. 16, in response to sustained growth in new COVID-19 infections throughout Dane County. Currently, the county is averaging 433 cases per day over a 7-day period — more than double the number of cases from a month ago.
“This virus does not spread on its own. We spread it. Every gathering – no matter the size – is an opportunity for disease spread and prolongs the pandemic,” Director of Public Health Janel Heinrich stated in a press release. “We are hopeful that with the community’s cooperation, we can bring our numbers down and avoid more hospitalizations and deaths.”
Previously, Public Health’s Emergency Order #9 allowed residents to attend indoor gatherings limited to 10 people, not including household members, and outdoor private gatherings limited to 25 people. Under the new order, any gathering inside any property that includes attendees other than that property’s residents is now prohibited.
While the health department has not set specific requirements on what is determined to be a “gathering,” Heinrich has said that the order is not meant to harm businesses or impede essential activities.
“We ask that everyone exercise good judgment and follow the orders. The intention of the order is not to penalize businesses or individuals, but to keep everyone safe during this pandemic,” said Heinrich.
Despite the county-wide health order, Public Health does not have the authority to shut down university activities. UW-Madison will continue with in-person classes until Thanksgiving break, after which all instruction will switch to virtual-only.
“UW-Madison continues to follow its practices and safety protocols. We don't anticipate changes related to the new public health order,” university spokesperson Meredith McGlone said.
However, students that live off-campus are still subject to the emergency order. Anyone found to be hosting a gathering could see significant penalties, as the City of Madison may issue a fine of up to $1,000 for every violation of the health order.
Addison Lathers is the Editor in Chief of The Daily Cardinal. She has covered city and campus news and held two editor positions. Follow her on Twitter at @addisonlathers.