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As Milwaukee eases restrictions, Madison and Dane County tighten them due to COVID-19 spike

NOW: As Milwaukee eases restrictions, Madison and Dane County tighten them due to COVID-19 spike

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – Dane County and Madison officials say large gatherings at bars and family parties where people do not adhere to social distancing or face covering guidelines are the cause of a recent spike in COVID-19 cases that has forced the county to put back in place certain restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“We cannot keep moving in this direction,” Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway told reporters in a news conference. “It threatens our most vulnerable neighbors, it threatens our economy and it threatens all of our health and wellbeing.”

The Madison mayor emphasized the role that bars, parties and barbecues played in the surge in cases.

“It’s clear that alcohol and coronavirus do not mix,” Rhodes-Conway said.

According to Public Health Madison & Dane County, 614 positive cases of COVID-19 were reported between June 13 and June 26. 49 percent of those positive cases were from people between the ages of 18 and 25. 45 percent of those who tested positive said they attended a party or gathering outside their household.

One bar in particular, Kollege Klub on UW-Madison’s campus, was the scene of a viral photo taken on June 18 by Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reporter Lawrence Andrea that showed a long line of young people waiting to enter without adhering to social distancing or face covering guidelines. Kollege Klub has been closed since last week because of cases tied to the bar and had planned to reopen on July 7.

Because of the surge in cases, officials put in place a new emergency order to tighten restrictions on things like dining and mass gatherings.

The new order limits restaurant capacity to 25 percent and prohibits indoor service at bars.

The Tavern League of Wisconsin signaled a legal fight may be coming over the emergency order.

“The Dane County order blatantly ignores the Supreme Court decision and should be amended to comply with the Supreme Court decision,” Tavern League President Chis Marsicano said in a statement referring to the state Supreme Court’s decision to block the Evers administration’s Safer at Home order in May.

“While county officials are quick to blame the industry, they conveniently ignore the historic protests the city has experienced over the last three weeks in which thousands of people congregated with no regard to social distancing.”

But the data from public health officials indicates the protests did not play a large role in the spike.

“The numbers that indicate that they have been at a protest or demonstration are extremely small, I believe it’s only 12 folks,” Public Health Madison & Dane County Director Janel Heinrich said during the news conference.

One of the larger concerns is how young people’s behavior may affect the plan for in-person instruction at UW-Madison this fall.

“That’s going to make it more difficult to go back to what we would call normal instruction,” Jeff Pothof, UW Health’s chief quality and safety officer told CBS 58.

The new emergency order goes into effect the morning of July 2.

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