Dane County sees spike in COVID-19 cases, public health department finds 76 cases with ties to bars

MADISON, Wis. — Dane County public health officials are seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases, counting nearly 400 new cases in the last five days.

“This is not reassuring news,” said Dr. Jeff Pothof, the chief quality officer at UW Health. “It has us all very worried.”

Public Health Madison and Dane County said half of the new cases are in people ages 20 to 29, and more than 60 percent are in people ages 18 to 25.

“We know those cases are in younger individuals, between 20 and 29,” Pothof said. “We think that’s one of the two reasons we haven’t seen the increase in in-patient admissions yet.”

The public health department is largely tying this spike back to bars. Through contact tracing interviews, staff found 76 cases where a person with a positive test visited a bar.

“We’ve seen small clusters that have occurred in the jail setting, in long-term care facility settings, but nothing to this magnitude and in this duration of time,” said Katarina Grande, the department’s public health supervisor and COVID-19 data team lead.

New restrictions aim to combat the common thread behind this cluster, requiring customers be seated and those seats be 6 feet apart.

Some bars also taking matters into their own hands, such as the Kollege Klub, which announced Thursday it is closed until it’s safe to reopen. A sign on the bar’s door read at least until July 7. Other bars have stayed closed despite eased restrictions. Managers at Liquid on University Avenue said the bar has stayed closed since March 14.

Pothof said this turning into a second wave depends on all of us doing our part, or else risk slipping backwards in reopening.

“This isn’t just about me and my trajectory,” he said. “This is about my community and how my actions impact others, whether that’s giving them the disease or my actions making public health shut down things that people are really looking forward to do.”

Another event widely seen as a potential source of spread is protesting. Public health said it’s had 12 cases in all of June where people said they had been to protests.