MADISON, Wis. — All indoor gatherings will be prohibited in Dane County starting Wednesday, Nov. 18, according to a new health order issued by Public Health Madison & Dane County on Tuesday morning.
The announcement came on the same day Wisconsin health officials reported a single-day high in statewide deaths related to COVID-19. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported 92 deaths on Tuesday, surpassing the previous single-day high of 66. Wisconsin also reported the highest single-day number of hospitalizations with 318. Wisconsin has 2,741 total deaths and 323,848 confirmed cases since the pandemic began.
“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,” said Janel Heinrich, Director of Public Health Madison & Dane County 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.”
The new order, which goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, also limits outdoor gatherings to 10 people who don't live together while social distancing. Dane County has reported 22,930 cases and 64 deaths since the pandemic began.
"Our hospitals are overflowing, our doctors and nurses are running ragged, and everywhere we turn, there is sickness, creating a challenge like none other we have ever seen," said County Executive Joe Parisi in a release. "These new orders, like their predecessors, are designed to call attention to where we are seeing the greatest amount of disease spread and interrupt the virus' quick movement through our community."
According to the emergency order, in-person games, sports, competitions, group exercise classes, meetings, trainings, movies, events and conferences are all considered mass gatherings. Anyone who violates the order, which will stay in effect until Dec. 16, could be fined up to $1,000 for ever violation of the order, plus court costs.
Most businesses will still be limited to 50% capacity and face coverings are still required.
In Dane County, health officials say 174 people are hospitalized with the coronavirus, including 48 in the ICU.
Public Health Madison & Dane County says close-contact gatherings are driving the spread of the virus. According to health officials, from Oct. 27 through Nov. 9, 31% of people who tested positive for COVID-19 reported non-household close contact with another case and nearly a quarter of people who tested positive attended a gathering or party in the past two weeks.
“We ask that everyone exercise good judgement and follow the orders," said Heinrich. "The intention of the order is not to penalize businesses or individuals, but to keep everyone safe during this pandemic.”