Alders, supervisors share concerns about Forward Dane plan as businesses begin to reopen

Open Sign
Courtesy of Daniel Ray/Flickr

MADISON, Wis. — Twelve Madison Alders and Dane County Supervisors have shared concerns about the county’s plan to reopen businesses the morning that businesses throughout the county began to reopen.

In the letter, which was addressed to Public Health Madison & Dane County Director Janel Heinrich, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, city and county leaders said the plan to allow businesses to reopen came as a surprise to them.

The plan was originally announced on May 18. It outlines several phases for Dane County businesses to gradually reopen. On Friday, Dane County leaders announced they would be moving into Phase 1 of the plan.

In their letter, the community leaders asked what had changed between the two announcements that warranted moving forward with the plan. The leaders said

Phase 1 of the plan allows for gatherings of up to 50 people and the reopening of many businesses, including restaurants, retail stores, gyms and salons to reopen with 25% capacity. The leaders said they are concerned those lighter restrictions could give residents mixed messages when it comes to the continued importance of social distancing and other CDC-recommended safety precautions.

“Science, as well as an increasingly large body of data, indicate that those activities are not safe so long as the spread of the virus is uncontrolled as it currently is in Dane County,” the letter reads. “Twenty-three percent of new cases in the last two weeks had no identified source.”

The leaders also expressed concern about the county’s lack of a plan to re-enforce restrictions if Dane County sees a worsening spread of COVID-19 after moving forward with reopening businesses.

According to the letter, the community leaders are concerned with how public health decisions have been made, saying that all of the recent public health decisions have been made at the executive level without input from Madison Alders and Dane County Supervisors.

“We understand there is significant pressure from many sides to help bring things ‘back to normal’ as soon as possible and to address the harmful economic impacts resulting from the pandemic. While we share this desire, we have also been urged by our constituents to put safety first,” the letter reads. “Many are willing to continue to do whatever is needed to avoid continued loss of life and permanent disabilities associated with this disease.”

The leaders also asked Heinrich, Parisi and Rhodes-Conway to answer several questions in an effort to bring local policy makers into the conversation:

  1. What is the basis for the Forward Dane metrics related to infection rate? How do those levels compare to the recommended criteria listed in the COVID-Local plan for Phase 3 – Economic Recovery?
    1. Continued decline in daily cases
    2. Fewer than 3% of tests conducted are positive
    3. Current estimate of less than 1 case per 100,000 population per day
  2. What is needed in order to get a majority of test results returned within 24 hours – the level suggested by COVID-Local for Phase 3 – Economic Recovery?
  3. What is needed in order to get our contact tracing capabilities to the level suggested by COVID-Local for Phase 3 – Economic Recovery
    1. 90% of close contacts are elicited, located, tested within 24 hours
    2. At least 30 contact tracers per 100,000, as well as case managers, care resource coordinators, community health workers
    3. At least 80% of new cases from identified contacts
  4. Can you provide information regarding our ability to protect at-risk populations? Do we meet the recommended COVID-Local criteria for Phase 3 – Economic Recovery?
    1. Sufficient testing, quarantine, and isolation in long-term care facilities
    2. Fewer than 10% of new cases are reported from long-term care facilities over last 28 days
    3. Local rapid response teams are available to respond to outbreak hotspots within 24 hours with sufficient PPE
  5. What is our current Inpatient and ICU capacity in the region? When will PHMDC begin publishing capacity and utilization like Milwaukee County does?
  6. What metrics will PHMDC use to determine when a retightening may again be needed? What will that look like? What should residents and businesses expect?

The letter was signed by these community leaders:

  • Patrick Heck, Alder District 2
  • Marsha Rummel, Alder District 6
  • Max Prestigiacomo, Alder District 8
  • Syed Abbas, Alder District 12
  • Tag Evers, Alder District 13
  • Grant Foster, Alder District 15
  • Samba Baldeh, Alder District 17
  • Rebecca Kemble, Alder District 18
  • Heidi Wegleitner, Supervisor District 2
  • Elena Haasl, Supervisor District 5
  • Yogesh Chawla, Supervisor District 6
  • Michele Ritt, Supervisor District 18