At noon today, Public Health Madison Dane County issued Emergency Order #11, loosening emergency provisions enacted last month.
The new order comes as Dane County has seen a steady drop in confirmed COVID-19 cases over the past month. PHMDC recorded a 73% confirmed case decrease from November 13th to December 11th.
As of last Friday, the seven day average for new COVID-19 cases had dropped to 187, compared to 487 on November 17th.
Even as early as December 2, PHMDC had noticed the decline. Speaking to reporters two weeks ago, PHDMC Director Janel Heinrich warned that travel during the Thanksgiving holiday could still cause a spike in early December.
That increase did not arrive.
“While we are for now seeing a slight calming of the storm, we are concerned about how much cases could increase as a result of Thanksgiving gatherings,” she said.
Effective at 12:01 AM tonight, indoor gatherings of up to ten people and outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people are permitted. Previously, all indoor gatherings had been prohibited and outdoor events limited to ten people.
The county’s mask mandate will remain in place and residents are still required to adhere to social distancing requirements.
Outside of those small changes, and some altered dining requirements at restaurants, Emergency Order #11 largely preserves stipulations originally outlined in August’s Order #9.
In addition to the slight loosening of restrictions on gatherings, the Department has also reversed its standpoint on reopening the county’s schools — providing guidance on phased reopenings for local districts yesterday.
In a press release, the department noted that an ongoing injunction from the Wisconsin Supreme Court bars them from enforcing countywide school closure orders.
“The evidence is strong that schools, particularly elementary schools, can function in a way that minimizes risk, when they have the right health precautions in place, including mask-wearing and social distancing,” Heinrich wrote in the release.
Statewide, Dane County’s dropping COVID-19 rates track relatively closely with Wisconsin’s. While the state did see a bump at the beginning of December, likely proof that the Thanksgiving holiday did cause some increase in cases, it has largely tracked a decline in overall cases since mid-November.
However, Heinrich noted that the slight relaxing of COVID restrictions doesn’t mean the battle is over — just that Dane County is trending in the right direction.
The new order is set to last until January 13th.
(Photo c/o PHMDC)