Dane County issues new order limiting gatherings, bar, restaurant activity

MADISON, Wis. — Dane County is issuing a new order that limits mass gatherings and bar and restaurant activity in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Starting at 8 a.m. Thursday, indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people or fewer. Outdoor  gatherings are limited to 25 people or fewer.

Indoor dining capacity has been reduced to 25 percent. Dane County was recently operating at 50 percent capacity for indoor dining. Tables must be spaced at least six feet apart, according to Public Health Madison & Dane County.

“When this pandemic began, I said there would be a beginning a middle and an end,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi at a press conference Wednesday morning. “Unfortunately we are not likely yet to the middle of this event.”

Bars and restaurants may provide outdoor seating as long as physical distancing guidelines are being met. Public health officials want tables limited to six customers who are members of the same family or household.

“For the past week, Dane County has seen a sustained, high number of cases. After consultation with our contact tracing team, gatherings and visits to bars and restaurants continue to be implicated in interviews with cases,” said Janel Heinrich, Director of Public Health Madison & Dane County.

“We are acting now to immediately curb this increase in cases and protect the health and safety of our community.”

The Tavern League of Wisconsin is disputing the order.

“Today’s order by Public Health Madison and Dane County shutting down taverns is in direct conflict with the Wisconsin Supreme Court decision, Wisconsin Legislature vs. Palm,” said Tavern League of Wisconsin President Chris Mariscano.

Mariscano says it’s unfair bars be limited when “thousands of people congregated with no regard to social distancing” during recent protests in Madison. However, according to Dane County Public Health, only 12 cases to date are linked to the recent demonstrations.

From June 13 through June 26, 614 people tested positive for COVID-19 in Dane County.  Of those cases, 49 percent were between the ages of 18 and 25.

Gyms and fitness centers are allowed to remain open at a 50 percent capacity limit. Group exercise classes may only be offered if physical distancing can be maintained at all times and there is no person-to-person contact. Classes must also comply with the mass gathering requirements issued in the updated order, public health officials said. Saunas and steam rooms are closed.

Stores and salons can still operate at 50 percent capacity levels.

Local elected officials and healthcare leaders will discuss the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Dane County and Wisconsin on Wednesday morning at 11 a.m.

This is a developing story. News 3 Now will update this article once more information is released.