MADISON - Public health officials overseeing the state's largest college town issued an order shutting down indoor service in bars in Dane County ahead of the Fourth of July weekend following a surge of new cases of the coronavirus.
The new restrictions backtrack on plans to gradually reopen businesses in the area amid the pandemic and could trigger a legal challenge from bar owners.
The order closes indoor service in bars beginning Thursday and limits the number of people who may eat inside restaurants to 25% capacity. Under the order, bars may keep their patios open if they have them.
"For the past week, Dane County has seen a sustained, high number of cases. After consultation with our contact tracing team, gatherings and visits to bars and restaurants continue to be implicated in interviews with cases,” Janel Heinrich, Director of Public Health Madison & Dane County, said in a statement.
“We are acting now to immediately curb this increase in cases and protect the health and safety of our community.”
Public health officials said since June 13, 614 people tested positive for coronavirus and half of them were between the ages of 18 and 29.
Multiple cases of the virus have been linked to businesses near the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, local health officials said Thursday.
Jeff Pothof, University of Wisconsin Health chief quality and safety officer, said if local health officials don't try to stop the spread of the virus in Dane County, in-person instruction at UW-Madison could be called off.
"If we’re unable to get on top of this current spike and it continues to accelerate, we may be in a position where it won't make sense to be holding in-person classes," he said. "It becomes a risk that most of us shouldn’t be taking with our childcare."