Director of Public Health Madison & Dane County answers questions about Dane Forward plan

MADISON, Wis. — As Dane County prepares to enter Phase 1 of its reopening plan during the COVID-19 pandemic, many are wondering about the new rules and guidelines that will be issued.

Director of Public Health Madison & Dane County Janel Heinrich spoke with News 3 Now’s Mark Koehn and Susan Siman about the specifics of the Forward Dane plan and what Phase 1 means for Dane County residents.

The first phase will start at 8 a.m. Tuesday. Heinrich said any business that opens prior to that time will be in violation of public health orders. The following changes will be made Tuesday:

  • Reopening most businesses, such as restaurants, gyms, and retail establishments, to 25% capacity with certain public health requirements and physical distancing
  • Indoor gatherings at commercial facilities of 50 people or fewer are allowed, with physical distancing
  • Indoor gatherings at private residence of 10 people or fewer are allowed, with physical distancing
  • Outdoor gatherings of 50 or fewer are allowed, with physical distancing
  • Select businesses and activities with high risk for disease transmission are still closed
  • Park courts and fields are open, individuals must maintain physical distancing

With businesses having a variety of ways to calculate capacity, public health officials have asked businesses to determine the 25% rule individually. For example, restaurants can use seating capacity as a point of reference, while offices can look at building inspection capacities.

Heinrich said visitor restrictions will still be enforced at nursing homes unless it is “compassionate care to the greatest extent possible.”

When asked about the likelihood of having certain mass gatherings such as Badger football games in the fall, Heinrich said it’s too soon to tell.

“It does create a great risk of bringing a lot of folks close together while we still may be in a phase where we don’t know enough about this virus to really keep transmission contained,” said Heinrich.

Certain data criteria must be met to move forward through the phases. Dane County will remain in Phase 1 for a minimum of 14 days, which is one incubation period for COVID-19, PHMDC said. If criteria are met, the department will issue a Phase 2 order. If criteria are not met, they will be reassessed at regular intervals.

The decision to enter Phase 1 was due to much of the criteria showing positive data and a low daily case count. However, Heinrich said there is a possibility health officials could revert to previous phases of the plan if the pandemic rebounds and becomes worse, but the entire point of the six-phase plan is to keep moving forward with gradual steps.