March 10: New Dane County Public Health Order

March 4, 2021 | COVID | Current Events


On March 2, 2021, Public Health Madison & Dane County (“PHMDC”) issued Emergency Order #14, to go into effect on March 10 and last until April 7. The new order is in response to a drastic decline in COVID-19 cases in the county. For comparison’s sake, Dane County had a 7 day averages of 111 cases of COVID and 68 hospitalizations on February 8, when Emergency Order #13 came out (See our analysis of Order #13 here). As of February 28, 7-day averages were 60 cases with 34 hospitalizations, and 67% of Dane County residents aged 65 and older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

What Changes in Emergency Order #14?

Gathering Limits

The most drastic change is permitted gathering sizes. Under Order #14, indoor gatherings can have up to 150 people, not including employees, if food or drink are provided. Indoor gatherings can have up to 350 individuals, not including employees, if no food or drink is provided. Outdoor gatherings may have to 500 attendees. However, numbers must be limited to ensure individuals maintain 6 feet of physical distancing. Many businesses are also subject to capacity limits as mentioned herein.


In Order #13, sporting events were limited to 25 people indoors or 100 outdoors if physical distancing could not be maintained. Now, sports are just subject to the limits placed upon gatherings as indicated above.


The protective measure policy for schools has been updated to be slightly less restrictive. The following are requirements that continue to be required:

  • Schools must ensure that employees are provided with and wear face coverings
  • Schools must ensure employees maintain 6 feet physical distancing whenever possible
  • When six feet physical distancing is not possible, groupings must be kept static with the same students and employees as much as possible and to restrict mixing between groups
  • Common areas such as cafeterias and auditoriums can be used as classrooms, to provide food and childcare, and for government functions.
  • Student groupings should be in distinct spaces within these common areas to avoid mixing of student groups.

Taverns and Restaurants

What is the difference between a tavern and restaurant according to the Dane County Order?

  • A tavern is an establishment who meets the statutory definition of tavern and whose sale of alcoholic beverages accounts for 50% or more of the establishment’s gross receipts
  • A restaurant is an establishment who meets the statutory definition of tavern and whose sale of alcoholic beverages accounts for 51% or more of gross sales.
  • Note, it’s not clear what happens when a restaurant has gross sales of alcoholic beverages in between 50% and 51%.
  • Also, an interesting tidbit is that the relevant time period is between July 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020 where most taverns were not allowed to have indoor patrons, which is bound to skew the numbers.


What can restaurants do and not do?

  • Restaurants must limit indoor dine-in capacity to 50% of approved seating capacity levels, which is up from 25% in the previous order.
  • Taverns are allowed to have dine-in customers at 25% of approved capacity, whereas in the previous order, customers were only allowed to order, pick up and pay for food or beverage.
  • For both restaurants and taverns, tables and chairs need to be spaced to ensure six feet of physical distancing between customers not in the same living unit.

What Has Not Changed Since Order #13?


The provisions of the mask mandate from Order #13 remain the same. Individuals aged 5 and older must wear a face covering in any enclosed building where other people outside of that individual’s household are present. This includes when an individual is in line to enter a building or driving or riding in any vehicle whether others outside of the individual’s own household are present. Individuals must also wear a mask while outdoors at a restaurant or tavern, or actively participating in sports, or at a gathering of more than 50 individuals.

Business Capacities

Gyms, businesses, personal services like salons and spas all most continue to operate at 50% capacity. Business must still have written cleaning and hygiene policies in place. Saunas and steam rooms in gyms are still closed, and group exercise classes can only take place if six feet of physical distancing can be maintained at all times.

As always, if you have questions about the rights and obligations of your business under the Dane County’s latest order or Forward Dane, generally, feel free to contact Kramer, Elkins & Watt, LLC at 608-709-7115.