Restaurants and taverns will be allowed to seat 75% of their official capacities under new Dane County gathering restrictions.
Public Health Madison and Dane County’s Emergency Order No. 16, released Thursday, April 29, and to take effect Wednesday, May 5, loosens gathering restrictions as the rate of vaccination in Dane County continues to increase. Order No. 16 lasts 28 days and will be in effect until June 2.
The new order allows increased capacity from the previous one, which limited restaurants to 50% capacity and taverns to 25%. The county allowed taverns — defined as establishments where 51% or more of sales are alcohol — to have customers inside starting on March 10.
Other businesses will be allowed to operate at 75% capacity, and indoor gatherings have increased to a limit of 350 people when food and drink are being consumed, up from a 150-person limit; and 500 indoors without food and drink, up from 350.
PHMDC director Janel Heinrich cited the county’s high vaccination rate in comparison to others in the state, as well as stabilized newly diagnosed cases of COVID-19, as the reason for loosening restrictions in the news release.
As of April 29, 59% of Dane County residents have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, the highest percentage in the state, according to the Department of Health Services’ vaccination data dashboard. People ages 65 and older, who are most at risk for serious illness and death from COVID-19, are vaccinated at the highest rate, with 92.9% of them having at least one dose.
“Although more spaces are opening, people should still participate in activities based on their comfort with risks, because although we are making progress, we aren’t out of the woods yet,” Heinrich said in the news release.
The number of newly discovered cases of COVID-19 has remained stable, the news release states, with a seven-day average of 64 new cases, in comparison to the seven-day average of 78 when Emergency Order No. 15 took effect on April 7. In that same time frame, the rate of vaccination in Dane County increased from 39.2% to nearly 60%.
County executive Joe Parisi said in the release that vaccination is the path out of the pandemic, and encouraged people to get vaccinated. Vaccinations are available at Alliant Energy Center without an appointment, as well as other pharmacies and health providers.
“People who are vaccinated are able to do things safely that unvaccinated people can’t, like hugging loved ones and gathering with friends without having to worry about masking or distance,” Parisi said in the release. “Get vaccinated and get back to doing the things you love.”
Stoughton rolls up their sleeves
People seek hospital, local employers for COVID-19 vaccine
A month ago, there was a lengthy line of employees waiting to get the COVID-19 vaccine at Skaalen Retirement Services.
That line was so long that staff had to ask some of their fellow teammates to come back later.
On Thursday, Jan. 7, 60-65% of the 225 employees opted to get their first vaccine dose. One month later on Feb. 4, during a second vaccine clinic, chief executive officer Kris Krentz estimated the percentage grew even higher.
“This is one of those milestones that we’ve been looking forward to for a long time,” he told the Hub.
Around the U.S., people deemed eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine are experiencing a similar excitement, with 42,417,617 people receiving shots as of Feb. 9, according to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As of that same day, Wisconsin ranked 11 in the nation and first out of all Midwest states, with 10.2% of its population given at least the first immunization, according to data compiled by the New York Times.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Wisconsin is now leading the nation in the average number of COVID-19 vaccine shots being administered daily — a massive increase that comes as the Evers administration is expanding its rollout to include free vaccination clinics across the state, according to a Feb. 8 article.
Dane County is faring better than the state average – as of Friday, Feb. 5, 10.4% of people had received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
In Stoughton, people have been receiving their vaccines through their healthcare providers, Stoughton Health or their place of work.
On Jan. 25, Stoughton Health created a waiting list for people interested in getting the vaccine.
Since then, Jen Mora, business health and wellness coordinator at Stoughton Health who has been running the vaccine clinics, said there is a huge demand for the shots.
“We’ve heard emotions of excitement, happy tears and sighs of relief to be finally getting their vaccines,” Mora said. “There is a new hope and outlook on getting through this pandemic sooner rather than later.”
Usually, Mora’s job involves employee and occupational health, drug screens and lab work for employees. But since December, her primary focus has been ensuring a smooth and successful vaccine rollout for employees, and patients including a goal of vaccinating 200 people during each clinic.
As of Feb. 5, Stoughton Health has vaccinated 1,900 people. The day Stoughton Health announced a sign up, hundreds of people entered their name into the system, Mora said – and now the list has grown to 2,000.
Wisconsin has over 1,200 COVID-19 eligible vaccination sites, including health care providers, pharmacies, local health departments, places of employment, and community based vaccination sites, according to the state Department of Health Services.
Eligible recipients vary by state and in Wisconsin front line health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities were able to get their vaccines starting Dec. 14, with police and fire personnel on eligible starting Jan. 18.
Michael Stacey, a volunteer firefighter with the Stoughton Fire Department, got his first and second dose by Thursday, Feb. 4. He said he had no adverse side effects, and looks forward to a larger percentage of vaccinations in Wisconsin.
“I think the relief will come when everyone that wants to be vaccinated gets vaccinated,” he told the Hub.
DHS staff deemed people 65 years of age and older eligible on Jan. 25. In Wisconsin, 87% of people who have died from COVID-19 fall within that age group, State Deputy Health Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said in a media briefing Friday, Jan. 29.
CVS Pharmacy is partnering with Skaalen to administer the vaccine to the residents and staff. It is part of the national The Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, a collaboration between the federal government, states and territories, and 21 national pharmacy partners and independent pharmacy networks to increase access to COVID-19 vaccination.
Krentz estimates that more than 90% of Skaalen residents opted to get their vaccines, with only two or three people turning down the opportunity, he said. To protect the privacy of residents CVS staff went room to room with a mobile vaccine cart to give residents their shots.
Skaalen held a third vaccine clinic on Feb. 5, and expects to have two more for staff and residents in March.
CVS operates the clinics out of Skaalen for six hours at a time, and that includes administering the shots, collecting consent forms and answering questions.
At both Stoughton Health and Skaalen, people have to wait in a recovery area for 15 minutes after receiving the vaccine to ensure a medical professional can monitor for any unanticipated adverse side effects, Krenz said.
For now, most health care providers are contacting people 65 and older, who became eligible. In Madison, UW Health is targeting people 71 and older and those 65 and older who are Black, Hispanic or Native American – all ethnicities who have been harder hit by the pandemic and sickened at least at twice the rate of people who are white, according to data from Public Health Madison and Dane County.
SSM Health is focusing on 75 and older, and UnityPoint Health-Meriter says we will notify you when appropriate.
COVID decline could speed return to full in-person school
While the latest federal health guidelines suggest schools can fully open based on COVID-19 data, Stoughton Area School District administrators are waiting to hear from Dane County.
District superintendent Tim Onsager told board members at their Monday, Feb. 15, meeting that the Centers for Disease Control updated its guidelines for schools on Feb. 12, but he was still waiting to confirm those with Public Health Madison and Dane County.
According to the CDC, Dane County is currently in a “moderate” transmission threshold — the second-lowest of four levels — with an average of 16.1 cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days. It is in the “low” transmission category for percent of positive tests, at around 3%, Onsager said.
The new CDC guidelines state that schools in the low or moderate categories for these factors can fully open schools to K-12 instruction, with physical distancing of 6 feet or more to the “greatest extent possible.”
But what does the “greatest extent possible” mean?
Onsager said he’s asked Public Health Madison and Dane County officials to define that before taking any further steps.
“That’s the million-dollar question,” Onsager said. “Some school districts are reading this as… it says we should be fully open, so we’re bringing everybody back and the only way to do that is to be less than six feet.”
Onsager said most classes in the district, which is on a hybrid model with students attending twice a week in-person, have around eight to 10 students. He said with 6-foot social distancing, classrooms have a capacity limit of around 14, which is significantly fewer than an average classroom of 20 students or more during full in-person learning.
“We have a little bit of room to bring in more face to face, but if we are following the six feet, we can’t,” Onsager said.
Complicating matters is the fact that not all health experts even agree on how far people need to stay apart to safely socially distance from each other, Onsager added.
“There’s some debate across the country, should it be six feet or three feet?” he said. “There are some experts that are saying three feet might be enough.”
Onsager said the “only way” the district could bring all students and staff back full time for five days a week is if people would be allowed to be closer than six feet apart.
“And that’s not something I’m advocating right now, it’s not something I’m saying we should discuss,” he explained. “We need to know what this means to the greatest extent possible … and I would hope that we could vaccinate our staff before we do that.
School staff vaccinations are ramping upUpdated
With child care and school employees eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine since March 1, more than half of Stoughton Area School District have been inoculated.
As of March 10, out of 522 people eligible, 360 staff members have received at least one dose or are fully vaccinated, with another 79 scheduled for vaccination, district community information and resource coordinator Molly Shea wrote in an email to the Hub on Monday. She said 91% of district staff indicated that they would like to be vaccinated.
Those numbers include the district’s 410 full or part-time staff — everyone from principals to bus drivers — as well as food service contractors, community coaches, pool staff and active substitute teachers. Of the school’s teachers, Shea said at least 94 percent have either received the vaccine or have scheduled an appointment.
Shea said the schools have been able to cover any brief staff absences “without major disruption to instruction.”
Staff can get vaccinated at the Public Health Madison and Dane County clinic at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, or through other sources, such as Walgreens or healthcare providers.
Tier 1A staff had the opportunity to be vaccinated with Stoughton Health back in January.
All Wisconsinites 16 and older eligible for COVID-19 vaccine starting April 5
All Wisconsin residents ages 16 and older are now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.
In a news release published Monday, April 5, state Department of Health Services secretary-designee Karen Timberlake said she was excited to make anyone age 16 and older eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination a month earlier than the department anticipated making them available to the general public.
The demand for vaccines will continue to outpace the supply, the release said, but increasing the number of people eligible allows providers to continue with the pace of vaccination and schedule appointments for those interested.
“It will take patience, but we encourage everyone to get vaccinated,” Timberlake said in the release.
Vaccine providers are still being encouraged to prioritize people who were previously eligible, such as those who are public-facing essential workers or have medical conditions that make contracting COVID-19 more dangerous.
According to the department’s website, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine series is the only inoculation authorized for use in people ages 16 and 17; the other two vaccines from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have only been given Emergency Use Authorization for people ages 18 and older.
All vaccinations continue to be done by appointment only, and each provider is in charge of managing its own appointment schedule. To view the state’s vaccine locator map, visit dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/vaccine-map.
Nearly 500 Stoughton Trailers employees became newly vaccinated against COVID-19 on Friday, April 2.
Where to find a COVID-19 vaccine in, near Dane County
With all Wisconsin residents ages 16 and older eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, more people than ever are scrambling to find doses.
Even with more people who are interested in receiving shots than vaccines themselves, there are a few ways you can get an appointment. Those include signing up at a mass vaccination site, calling your health provider or going to a local pharmacy.
People ages 16 and older can receive the Pfizer vaccine, and those 18 and older can receive Moderna. The federal government has temporarily paused the use of Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine to study rare blood clots found in six people out of 7 million recipients, but if and when the pause is lifted, that vaccine is available for people 18 and older.
All COVID-19 vaccines are given out by appointment only.
People have often found appointments by scheduling them for locations that have a smaller population, oftentimes outside of Dane County, or by scheduling their vaccine weeks in advance, rather than expecting to get in the next day. When looking for an appointment, try to remain flexible with when and where the appointment is.