Phase two allows all businesses to open at 50% capacity, the opening of K-12 schools and higher education institutions, indoor gatherings of up to 50 people, outdoor gatherings of up to 100 people and the opening of public playgrounds and splash pads.
The change is being made because the county has met six of nine key thresholds after 14 days in phase one, according to the release. Though the county is still seeing more than four positive cases of COVID-19 per day, there is still community spread of the virus and only 70-85% of new cases are contacted within 48 hours of testing.
City and county officials warned that even though phase two is starting, the virus continues to be a risk.
“Businesses and workplaces are reopening with required measures to help contain the spread of disease, but COVID-19 is very much still in our community,” Janel Heinrich, director of Public Health Madison & Dane County, said in the release. “We need our community to remain vigilant and careful as we move to new phases so we don’t see a spike in cases.”
For the county to move to a less stringent phase, it can’t have an average of more than 20 new cases per day. When phase one started, the county had an average of eight cases per day, according to the release. Now the average is 16.
Officials urged residents to continue taking measures such as social distancing, wearing a mask and frequently washing hands. They also suggested limiting the number of people you contact, minimizing trips and gathering outside rather than inside.
When the Forward Dane plan was announced, it drew criticism from a number of Madison Common Council and Dane County Board Members. In a letter signed by 14 officials, the plan was criticized for allowing the area to open too quickly with measures that weren’t strict enough to keep residents safe.
“Reopening risks a resurgence of the virus, which is disproportionately affecting poor, uninsured, low-wage workers who have no alternative but to go to risky jobs that make them vulnerable,” they wrote. “Multiple studies have shown that the pandemic has been devastating economically, especially in black and brown communities where people may live with extended families and are more likely to be employed in public-facing occupations such as food service, transportation, and home health care where they are more susceptible to become infected.”
County health officials will assess the situation again in 14 days — on June 29 — to determine if phase three can be entered. In order to move to the next phase, the county must meet the threshold in at least half of the metrics and not have any metrics be considered red.
Each metric is separated into three thresholds — green, yellow and red — with red meaning the threshold is not at all met.
The southern Wisconsin region, which includes Adams, Columbia, Dodge, Grant, Green, Iowa, Jefferson, Juneau, Richland, Lafayette, Rock and Sauk Counties, cannot have any metrics considered red either.
Once phase three is entered, the county will remain under those restrictions until widespread protections such as a treatment or vaccine for this virus are available.