In anticipation of Thanksgiving, Public Health Madison and Dane County announced today a new public health order. The order restricts outdoor mass gatherings down to 10 people maximum, and prohibits all indoor mass gatherings, including multi-household gatherings for Thanksgiving. Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway acknowledged the difficult sacrifice she was asking of residents, but underlined its necessity.
“Now we have to go one more step and ask you to not gather with anyone outside your household. We cannot pretend that this is going to be a normal thanksgiving. We know that many of the people that we want to spend time with are very vulnerable to the virus. And we want our loved ones to be around, not for just this one holiday, but for all the holidays and all the special occasions of our lives.”
Speaking to reporters in-person, outside the Alliant Energy Center testing site, both Mayor Rhodes-Conway and Dane County Executive Joe Parisi expressed frustration with how little support they have received from the federal and state governments. Parisi described how he had been undermined when he attempted to coordinate with other county executives.
“I do know that they are receiving a lot of pressure from certain people in the Republican party to not put orders in place. In fact senator Nass literally sent a letter to leaders I met with in the region to work on cooperating, warning them not to cooperate with me… Now ultimately again, the best solution would be a state-wide order, but with the dysfunction that we’ve seen at the state frankly, the next best thing would be a regional approach.”
Parisi went on to thank Rock County for initiating a similar order yesterday, and encouraged counties neighboring Dane to do the same.
Dane County’s Covid cases have been spiking, averaging 433 new cases per day, which is more than double the caseload from just one month ago. In nearly a quarter of recent cases, people reported attending a gathering or party.
Just in Dane County 174 people are hospitalized and 48 are in the ICU . Both are record highs, and have followed a sharp and steady increase since the start of October. Hospitals in the region report being strained by staffing shortages.
Janel Heinrich, director of Public Health Madison Dane County, says she’s concerned for the many people whose lives are affected by the pandemic. She encouraged people to mask up, socially distance, and stay home for the holidays.
“As dire as our current situation is, we have the power to turn it around and to change the course of this pandemic if we change our behaviors now.”
The new order goes into effect tonight at midnight, and violators may face hefty fines. It is set to last at least until December 16th, or as Heinrich explains it, “two COVID cycles.”