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Thursday, December 01, 2022

As vaccination rates rise, Dane County lifts limits on outdoor gatherings.

The joint city-county Public Health department released a order of public health Friday releasing Dane County residents of outdoor capacity limits. 

Public Health cited “stable and improving COVID-19 data, specifically a dramatic increase in vaccination numbers” in past months as the reasoning for loosening restrictions. Face masks will no longer be required for outdoor gatherings, however, the six-foot social distancing requirement is still in effect. The order will go into effect on Wednesday and is set to remain in effect until May 5. 

Public Health reports that 39.2% of Dane County’s population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, a 16.1% increase since the last order on March 10th. 

The news order lifts the current regulation on outdoor gatherings that limit outdoor gatherings to 500 people. The current regulation also mandates face masks for gatherings exceeding 50 people.

No changes will be made to indoor capacity limits and face mask requirements. Face masks for indoor gatherings remain a requirement except for those under 5 years of age and a few other exceptions, which means businesses and restaurants will continue to be limited to 50% capacity. 

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway voiced her hopes that the new order will allow the Madison community to engage in more public activities this upcoming summer.

“With lifting the restrictions on the number of people, I think we’re hopeful that we’ll have a lot more events this summer,” Rhodes-Conway said at  a news conference Friday.

Following the announcement of the new local ordinance, the Dane County Fair and the Orton Front music festival announced their plans to host in-person events. 

Destination Madison's Rob Gard is hopeful of a return in other athletic events such as the IRONMAN and CrossFit Games. Vern Stenman, the president of Big Top Sports and Entertainment, echoed this sentiment, stating that he hopes athletic competitions can resume this summer. 

“I think the biggest challenge for us as a business is to understand exactly what all the rules mean and how they kind of actually work in practice at the type of events that we host," Stenman said

Rhodes-Conway said the organizers of these outdoor events are responsible for determining if proper social distancing is possible and whether or not masks will be required. 

“We just need to make sure we continue to do that in a way that’s safe, and that we continue to advocate for people to get vaccinated,” said Rhodes-Conway. 

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Janel Heinrich, the Public Health director says enforcement of social distancing policies will be carried out through a complaint-based system. 

Dane County officials hope that these loosened restrictions will be implemented safely and that the county can continue to open up while decreasing COVID-19 cases. 

“We’re happy to take a step forward today, but we cannot let our guard down yet,” stated Janel Heinrich, the director of Public Health.  “Please continue to follow the precautions that have gotten us to this moment so we don’t have to go backwards.”

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