Winter at Lake Kegonsa

A family walks ontop of the ice at Lake Kegonsa State Park on Saturday, Feb. 20.

Public Health Madison and Dane County is set to remove gathering limits and masking requirements for outdoor activities in a new order starting April 7.

County health staff said in an April 2 news release regarding Emergency Order No. 15 that face coverings are no longer required for outdoor events where people from different households gather. Emergency Order No. 15 will last until May 5.

Other changes in the order are to social distancing and cleaning policies for schools and childcare facilities. In addition, self-service food stations and saunas may open with certain provisions.

Public Health Madison and Dane County's Emergency Order No. 15 takes place Wednesday, April 7.

But the new order maintains that indoor gatherings are limited to 150 or less when food is served, and 350 or less when food is not. People must still practice social distancing, and businesses and restaurants will continue to be limited to 50% capacity, the release states.

PHMDC director Janel Heinrich also encouraged people to continue to wear face coverings indoors when among those who are not yet vaccinated in the release.

“We’re happy to take a step forward today, but we cannot let our guard down yet,” she said in the release. “Please continue to follow the precautions that have gotten us to this moment so we don’t have to go backwards.”

In the order, Heinrich cites the stable trend of newly diagnosed cases of COVID-19 over the last month, and the increase in vaccination from just under a quarter of the population in early March, to now slightly more than two out of every five people with one dose in early April, as the reason for taking additional steps toward loosening restrictions.

Dane County residents ages 65 and older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at a rate twice that of the general public at almost 90%, according to Dane County’s metric dashboard. People ages 65 and older have been most at risk for severe disease and death, as nearly a quarter of people ages 90 and older who contracted COVID-19 since March 2020 have died, and 14.3% of people ages 80-89 have died.

Of those ages 70 and older, nearly a quarter who contracted COVID-19 in the last year were also hospitalized.

Email reporter Kimberly Wethal at kimberly.wethal@wcinet.com and follow her on Twitter @kimberly_wethal.​

News Editor

Kimberly Wethal joined Unified Newspaper Group in 2018, where she serves as the news editor for four publications and primarily covers the Verona Area School District and the City of Fitchburg. She previously was an intern with UNG starting in 2013.