New Dane County Restrictions, Fond du Lac Numbers, Voting in Milwaukee

With new state numbers, Wisconsin has 33 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus. In response, Dane County announces new restrictions on public gatherings.

By Marisa Wojcik, Will Kenneally

March 15, 2020 • South Central Region

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Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway.

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway announces restrictions on gatherings of more than 50 people at a news conference March 15, 2020.

5:45 p.m. in Madison:

UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank announced in an email Sunday evening the campus would implement a telecommuting policy to all university employees to further reduce face-to-face contact as new cases of coronavirus appear in Dane County.

University employees who can perform their job remotely are encouraged to do so as soon as possible. Those who cannot work remotely are to come into work as normal on Monday, March 16.

The university last week required all instruction be online for students campus-wide starting March 23, following spring break, and going through at least April 10.

Blank noted that UW-Madison is expected to reduce operations in the coming weeks. More guidance around this and leave policies will be made available once finalized.

4:00 p.m. in Fond du Lac:

Five of the six new coronavirus cases confirmed by the state health department came from Fond du Lac County according to the department’s outbreaks page

Fond du Lac County Health Officer Kim Mueller said she anticipated those five cases to come back positive. Those five patients were all on a river cruise, which contributed to the exposure of many of Fond du Lac’s patients to the coronavirus. 

Of the 11 total cases in the county, Mueller said three are currently hospitalized with the others remaining at home in self-isolation. Health officials at a Sunday news conference would not go into specific detail on the status of the three hospitalized patients. Mueller said that eight tests still remain pending for the county. 

Fond du Lac has not seen community spread so far, but if those pending tests come back positive it would indicate community spread according to Mueller. 

“We would expect to see some, so that’s why it’s so important at this point to practice those social distancing [policies],” she said. 

Mueller added that the Centers for Disease Control would provide support in the county to help with contact tracing of those individuals who might have come in contact with a confirmed case. 

3:45 p.m. New DHS numbers:

New numbers released by the Department of Health Services show six new confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in Wisconsin, bringing the state’s total to 33. This includes one Dane County patient who has since recovered. 

2:30 p.m. in Madison:

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, in conjunction with Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and Public Health Madison & Dane County Director Janel Heinrich, announced new orders limiting public gatherings to 50 people, including schools, and cutting seating capacity in restaurants and bars to 50%.

The legal orders go into effect at 12:01 a.m. county-wide. K-12 schools in the Madison district, and others around the county will effectively close at the same time, starting earlier than the statewide mandate to close Thursday.

Grocery stores were exempted from the order to ensure access to food. The biggest concern of the order is to prevent people from coming into close contact for more than 10 minutes and less than six feet apart to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“Take this seriously,” Parisi urged young people, and to remember that even if the virus does not impact them as severely, that they could be carriers to others more vulnerable.

Officials requested the public abide by the orders for the good of the community, however law enforcement can issue citations for those in violation of the law.

2:00 p.m. in Milwaukee:

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett announced in a news conference ways the state’s largest city would facilitate voting ahead of the April 7 election while municipalities around Wisconsin urge social distancing. 

“The coronavirus risk introduces new elements to the city’s administration of the election that include a paramount concern for the health and safety of our election workers and the city’s voters,” Barrett said. “First and foremost, we want residents of Milwaukee to exercise their constitutional right to vote.” 

“This pandemic is serious, and we need to exercise caution and preparedness,” He added.

Barrett said the city would be expanding early voting locations and encouraged residents to vote early or absentee if they feared crowds on election day. Polling places will also be cleaned routinely on election day, and the mayor said voters could employ social distancing practices like keeping six feet between people in line and voters bringing in their own pens to mark their ballots. 


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