After sparking confusion about what, exactly, is not allowed under a new order issued Tuesday, Public Health Madison and Dane County clarified Wednesday that its new ban on “mass” indoor gatherings effectively means residents are barred from getting together indoors with anybody they don’t live with — no matter the size of the group.
The order that went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday continues all of the previous restrictions announced in September, including a mask mandate and limiting business capacity to 50%.
But it also moves from allowing indoor gatherings of up to 10 people to prohibiting any “mass gathering inside,” and defines a “mass gathering” as “a planned event with a large number of individuals in attendance, such as a concert, festival, meeting, training, conference, performance, show or sporting event.”
Some residents were confused about whether that meant any indoor gathering is verboten, even having one friend over for coffee or a contractor finishing a job.
Public Health provided a hint Tuesday when it wrote on its website that the new order “prohibits indoor gatherings of any size,” even though the order itself doesn’t phrase it that way.
That order, Dane County Emergency Order #10, describes what sorts of events might qualify as mass gatherings but doesn’t provide a number below which it is no longer a “mass” gathering and just a gathering. Instead, it just says any such gathering is prohibited inside and limited to 10 people outside, with physical distancing.
On Wednesday, Public Health spokeswoman Sarah Mattes acknowledged that the new order prohibits gatherings of any size indoors except with people you live with.
She said the agency is “working on some clarifying language.”
10 Madison restaurants with enhanced outdoor seating thanks to city’s Streatery program
10 Madison restaurants with enhanced outdoor seating thanks to city's Streatery program
Outdoor seating has been a lifeline this summer for some restaurants lucky enough to have it, but it comes with challenges, and worse, an approaching end date with colder weather on the way.
About 87 restaurant and bar owners are taking advantage of the city's "Streatery" program, modeled after efforts around the world to help restaurants during COVID-19 restrictions by helping them increase their outdoor dining areas by extending into streets, parking spaces, parking lots and alleys. Twenty-six other applications are pending in Madison.
The efforts are in response to public heath data that suggests that al fresco dining is a safer option than eating indoors in restaurants. Or as Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich put it, "a restaurant patio is a calculated risk."
Here are 10 Madison restaurants and bars taking part in Streatery.