Indoor Mass Gatherings Prohibited in Dane County

November 18, 2020 | COVID | Current Events


In response to a continued increase in the number of COVID cases, Dane County, through Public Health Madison & Dane County, has issued Emergency Order #10, which took effect at 12:01 a.m. on November 18, 2020 and will remain in effect until December 16, 2020.  The order keeps all restrictions and other primary aspects of the previous order in place, including keeping the county in Phase 2 of Forward Dane, with most businesses allowed to operate at 50% capacity, and restaurants at 25% capacity.

The biggest changes in this order are the following:

(1) Indoor Mass Gatherings are prohibited.

(2) Outdoor Mass Gatherings are limited to 10 people.

Previously, indoor Mass Gatherings up to 10 people were allowed, and outdoor Mass Gatherings up to 25 people were allowed.

What is a Mass Gathering?

Great question! All four attorneys in the KEW office agree that this term should be defined better, but here is our interpretation:

The definition of “Mass Gathering” remains as set forth in previous orders, and is “a planned event with a large number of individuals in attendance, such as a concert, festival, meeting, training, conference, performance, show, or sporting event.”

While what constitutes “large,” without further definition, could be in the eye of the beholder, we interpret this order such that a gathering of 2 people indoors is a Mass Gathering that would violate this order.

Individuals that are members of the same household or living unit do not count towards the Mass Gathering limit within their own household or living unit, so if 12 people lived together, related or unrelated, they would not violate this order by gathering together indoors.

Under the previous order, employees did not count toward the head count for Mass Gatherings, whether indoors or outdoors. However, the employee exception has been removed insofar as indoor gatherings are concerned (it remains for outdoor gatherings). So, employees may not attend “Mass Gatherings” inside.

Believe it or not, this includes an in-office or on-location indoor meeting, for those of us out there actually working at our places of work. Instead, the order requires an alternative approach, such as zoom or outdoor meeting.

What is Changing?

The Order states that “a Mass Gathering inside any property is prohibited.” So, a gathering of any number of people, inside any property (business or residential), that are not members of the same household or living unit, is prohibited, unless otherwise specifically set forth elsewhere in the order.

Primary affected areas include the following:


  • For all businesses, unless separate requirements are specifically laid out in the order, meetings, trainings, and conferences, of any number of people (so, 2 or more) are now prohibited indoors, because they constitute a prohibited indoor gathering.
  • Businesses must designate entrance and exit points and manage traffic flow such that customers remain six (6) feet apart from one another whenever possible. (This is in addition the previous requirement that businesses place markings outside to regulate entry and physical distancing.)

Sports, Activities, and Gyms

  • For youth and adults alike, games and competitions involving groups remain allowed only in outdoor settings, to a maximum group size of 10. Indoor sports, games, or competitions of any individuals not from the same household are prohibited.
  • Indoor Mass Gatherings of any individuals who are not from the same household are prohibited in places of amusement and activity, which include water parks, licensed public or private swimming pools, aquariums, zoos, museums, bowling alleys, amusement parks, outdoor miniature golf, movie theaters, theaters, concert and music halls, golf courses, and similar places.
  • Group exercise classes are considered Mass Gatherings (as they were previously) and are now prohibited indoors when involving individuals who are not members of the same household. Group exercise classes of up to 10 people are allowed outdoors.

What is Not Changing?

The majority of the restrictions that have been in place for months now in Dane County are not changing, including the following:

  • Childcare settings are subject to the same requirements as previously, with no change in the number of allowed individuals in a given setting (15 children per group/classroom, regardless of age)
  • K-12 schools are currently allowed to operate in-person, in accordance with the temporary injunction issued by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in September. The longer-term fate of this issue is still pending before the court; the case is scheduled for oral arguments on December 8.
  • Businesses, unless listed separately in the order, may continue to operate at 50% of approved capacity levels. (A reminder of other requirements of businesses is provided below.)
  • Restaurants and Taverns may operate at 25% of indoor dine-in capacity, with other restrictions in place. For example, taverns may not seat or serve patrons indoors other than for picking up carry out.
  • Religious entities and groups remain exempt from Mass Gathering requirements for religious services and religious practices but must adhere to Mass Gathering requirements for other events such as picnics or staff meetings.

Continuing Requirements for Businesses

Requirements for businesses from previous orders continue to apply and been laid out in previous KEW Tips articles, including the following:

For a general overview of requirements of businesses at the local, state, and federal levels, see our article from August: Businesses Need to Know: COVID Related Requirements.

As always, if you have questions about the rights and obligations of your business under any county, state or federal mandates, contact Kramer, Elkins & Watt, LLC at 608-709-7115 to set up a time to talk with one of our business attorneys.