‘If you leave home, assume you were exposed to COVID-19’: Dane County residents receive emergency alert on cellphones

'Calling on everyone in Dane County to take this seriously and do their part'

MADISON, Wis. — Dane County leaders on Friday are urging residents to “isolate now,” given the evidence of community spread of the coronavirus in the area.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said in a joint statement that the community has hit a critical point in the efforts combating COVID-19. They urged residents to “immediately take further steps to reduce their travel and in person interaction.”

Wisconsin’s “Safer at Home” order issued by Gov. Tony Evers began Wednesday, closing non-essential business and restricting travel to essential activities.

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Residents in Dane County received a public safety alert on their cellphones Friday shortly after 2 p.m. from the Dane County Emergency Operations Center saying residents should only leave home if they must.

“If you leave home, assume you were exposed to COVID-19,” the emergency alert said.

Screenshot of Dane County emergency alert

The alert also advises residents to monitor their health and isolate themselves if they show symptoms.

Satya Rhodes-Conway

Mayor Rhodes-Conway

“The consequences of your actions may be life or death,” Rhodes-Conway said. “The virus doesn’t spread itself, people are spreading it; we are spreading it. Madison and Dane County are calling on everyone in Dane County to take this seriously and do their part.”

The number of confirmed cases in Dane County on Friday morning is 138, officials said.

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“It is safe to assume that there are many more cases that are out in the community but not confirmed,” officials said in the release. “If you are in contact with other people for any reason you should assume that you may be exposed and that you may be spreading the disease.”

Officials said that public health and healthcare interventions alone are not enough to contain the virus. There aren’t vaccines or treatment options yet, not enough personal protective equipment in the quantities needed, nor efficient and available testing for people experiencing symptoms.

“Minimizing contact, quarantine orders, and isolation procedures … are our best and only tools to not overwhelm our healthcare system and save lives,” the statement said.

Staying home helps protect the most vulnerable people and the people we rely on for healthcare and other essential services, officials said.

Officials said the community will face harsh realities and difficult choices in the coming days and weeks. There are a number of vulnerable populations that are going to be disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and it’s vital that the community “stands together as we move into this new stage of response,” the release said.

In addition to staying home and isolating, Public Health Madison & Dane County recommends that residents monitor themselves for symptoms like fever, cough, shortness of breath or sore throat at all times and stay away from others if they develop the symptoms.

PHMDC launched a data dashboard this week to share up-to-date coronavirus case information with residents, including the number of tests administered, confirmed cases, deaths and a breakdown by age.