Public Health Madison and Dane County issued a new public health order today, including significant changes to indoor and outdoor capacity limits and modified protective measures for schools.

The new public health order, Emergency Order #14, will affect capacity limits for gatherings, restaurants, taverns and sporting events. Gatherings inside will be limited to 150 individuals when food and drink are offered and 350 individuals where no food or drink is offered. Both instances include measures to ensure customers maintain six feet of physical distance. The order will go into effect March 10.

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PHMDC also released an updated version of its Forward Dane plan set forth at the beginning of the pandemic.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said in the order’s release the new Forward Dane measures reflect all they have learned and the increasing vaccination rates in the county. Currently, 17.2% of Dane County residents have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

“These new orders reflect the hope we should all feel as more people get vaccinated and we move closer with each passing day to the final chapters of this pandemic,” Parisi said in the statement.

Additionally, outdoor gatherings are now limited to 500 people while maintaining six feet of physical distance. There have been no changes to face-covering requirements and sports events must also follow the existing guidelines in place.

Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce President Zach Brandon said in a statement the Chamber was encouraged by easing of restrictions on restaurants and the tailored approach of the new measures.

“The Chamber has long advocated for micro tuning and ensuring there is equilibrium with our orders that protects public health and our economy while rebuilding public confidence,” Brandon said.

The indoor restaurant capacity is now increased to 50% and tavern seating capacity is now 25%. Customers should still be physically distanced while seated.

Brandon said in the statement the Chamber believes this was an appropriate step given the declining case counts and growing vaccination rates.

“While we must all remain vigilant with precautions to protect spread, it is great to see a path that could bring extreme loosening or even dissolving of restrictions in the months ahead,” Brandon said.

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In schools, face coverings should still be worn at all times though when physical distancing is not possible, students and employees should ensure the group is as static as possible by restricting mixing between groups.

Common areas in schools such as cafeterias and auditoriums should separate student groupings into distinct areas to maintain physical distancing.

“We look forward to continuing to support our local leaders with data, input and policy ideas as we work to accelerate our economic recovery,” Brandon said in the statement.