Public health officials announce new reopening plan for Dane County

Wisconsin State Capitol
File photo

MADISON, Wis. — Public Health Madison and Dane County has released a new plan to reopen the county in phases during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the news release, Forward Dane will includes metrics and a blueprint to ensure a safe and gradual reopening. The order will go into effect Tuesday.

“We, like many in our county, are eager for economic stability in our community,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. “We also know that slowing the spread of COVID-19 is critical in order to keep people safe and protect our hospital systems. Forward Dane will guide us to a future in which we can reopen our community while also preventing the spread of COVID-19.”

Forward Dane has nine data metrics listed across three categories:

  • Epidemiology, or the ability for health care and public health systems to handle growth in cases.
    • Percentage of positive tests
    • Cases per day
  • Health care, which includes the health care system capacity
    • Tests conducted
    • Testing for health care workers
    • Patients treated without crisis care
    • Health care workers with COVID-19
  • Public health, or the ability to contain infections that do occur
    • Lab reporting timeliness and contact tracing
    • Community spread
    • COVID-like symptoms

“Metrics help us understand the growth in cases, the health care system’s current capacity, and public health’s ability to contain the spread of the virus,” said Janel Heinrich, Public Health Madison & Dane County Director. “Some metrics are an extension of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services’ Badger Bounce Back Plan, while others are new metrics tailored to our local area. These metrics are critical for assessing our readiness to reopen Dane County.”

The newest metrics will be posted weekly.

Forward Dane also provides an overview of the requirements that businesses and organizations will have to meet for each reopening phase. Each phase will have a gradual decrease in restrictions.

Some changes include removing restrictions on travel, opening tennis courts and disc golf courses with certain limitations and removing criminal penalties for violating the Dane County order.

Public Health said it estimates spending at least two weeks in the first phases to look at the data and confirm that the changes did not lead to an “unmanageable” rise in new cases. The release said the criteria in Forward Dane will guide the decision to transition between phases.

Criteria For Forward Dane

In order to move to the first phase, all metrics must be yellow or green. All will be assessed no sooner than May 26. At this time, only five out of the nine criteria have been met.

Health officials have posted a breakdown of each metric’s threshold and the requirements that must be met in order to attain green status on the Public Health Madison and Dane County website.

The transition from the first phase to the second phase will be examined 14 days after the implementation of the first. Health officials said over half of the metrics need to be green. Neither of the Epidemiology criteria can be red.

The jump from phase two to phase three will be assessed at 14 days after the second phase is in motion. Over half of the county’s metrics need to be green, and none of them can be red in Dane County or the southern region.

The third phase will continue until widespread protections, such as a vaccine, are available.

“Like everyone else, we are eager to reopen businesses and work towards normalcy, but we want to be realistic and practical,” said Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway. “We don’t want to rush the process and undo the progress we have made so far. Data will guide us, and we thank everyone in our community for their continued diligence and patience as we forge this path forward together.”