Mass Gathering Guidance

Guidance on Mass Gatherings

September 8, 2020

All social interaction has some level of risk for contracting COVID-19.  The best way to protect yourself and others is to:

  • Continue maintaining your physical distance from other people
  • Stay away from large groups
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Wash your hands, and
  • Wear a cloth face covering

People need to know the risks and balance those with the benefits to make the best decision for their families.  In all cases, however, people should understand their personal responsibility to avoid unknowingly spreading the infection to someone else. 

We want to stress that the protective measures listed above remain important. “We know people are fatigued and some people may think the measures we continue to recommend are unnecessary but this virus is very much in the community and can be extraordinarily serious for some individuals. We can and should move forward but must do so cautiously”, says Debbie Siegenthaler, Iowa County Health Department Director.

COVID-19 doesn't spread itself. People spread it. Our best tools are isolation for those we know are sick and physically distancing ourselves from others. Each of us represents an opportunity to interrupt the transmission of this virus.  The Iowa County COVID-19 Dashboard reveals that a good portion of cases do not have direct exposure to a person known to have COVID-19, which means we continue to experience community spread or a wide circulation of the virus.

“We are all aware that school is back in session and how important it is to keep our kids in school. The entire community continues to be critical in efforts to keep social circles small and practice consistency and persistence with social distancing and hand hygiene. Our numbers are holding steady due to the efforts of businesses, schools and residents embracing important public health measures”, Siegenthaler added. “The goal continues to be avoiding a large surge in our hospitals and our public health and emergency response systems. We also want to avoid large outbreaks in our school settings, which could mean the potential for many close contacts who would need to quarantine which could interrupt school operations.  We still need everyone assisting in this mission”, Siegenthaler stated.

A critical message to reinforce is that this virus is very efficient at finding people to infect.  As a result, any time people come together, the virus has a chance to find a new person to infect. A question we continue to receive is regarding planning for large events, including large gatherings such as weddings or community events such as fairs or festivals. 

At this time, we continue to advise against large gatherings that bring hundreds of people together.

Public health experts agree that large gatherings of people in sustained, close contact greatly increases the risk for spread of the virus among those who attend the events and to the communities these individuals return to after the event. The communal nature of such events makes it especially challenging to accommodate the physical distancing and sanitation recommendations required to slow the spread of disease.

Current Recommendation

9/8/2020

Recommendations are informed by the status of Iowa County COVID-19 dashboard metrics over time and DHS guidance.

Some of the key data we are monitoring includes:

  • Percent positive tests
  • Local health and response system capacity
  • Community spread
  • Management of outbreaks

Trends in the Iowa County COVID-19 dashboard over the past several reporting periods indicates that the percent of positive tests, growth of cases and community spread have either held steady and/or experienced a decrease. Below are trends in key areas of our local dashboard since mid-July.

July 20, 2020

July 27, 2020

August 3, 2020

August 10, 2020

August 17, 2020

August 24, 2020

August 31, 2020

September 8, 2020

% Positive Tests

1.45%

2.1%

2.6%

3.9%

4.2%

3.8%

3.3%

2%

Average Cases

reported each day

.92

.71

1.0

1.71

2.5

2.0

1.5

.93

Testing: Daily average

42.8

33.1

37.7

43.6

60

53

45

45

Outbreaks

red

red

red

red

red

red

red

red

Community Spread

46%

30%

42%

38%

54%

46%

43%

38%

The status of key areas of our local dashboard over time indicates that a very cautious move forward in the mass gathering recommendation can occur. The Iowa County Health Department recommends you not engage in public or private gatherings of people indoors of more than 25 people and outdoors of more than 50 people. Paramount with current guidance are the basic principles of social distancing, face coverings, hand sanitizing/hand washing, and surface sanitizing and limiting contact with others (including large gatherings of people). All gathering recommendations include maintaining physical distancing and protective measures such as cleaning, sanitizing, wearing masks and handwashing (see protective measures page 3-4).  As long as physical distancing recommendations remain in place, no event should take place in a venue that does not allow attendees to be spaced at least 6 feet apart, which likely means reducing the maximum capacity of a space.  Since there are no public health orders in place, this is a recommendation not a requirement. 

Public gatherings, especially those that draw thousands from far and wide are those we consider the highest risk in promoting disease transmission and are not recommended by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) and the Iowa County Health Department.  With large gatherings, mitigation efforts such as social distancing and sanitizing are extraordinarily challenging to manage. We would ask our community to help in our public health efforts to reduce disease transmission and not hold these types of events. Wherever possible, we urge event organizers to host virtual or other non-contact events that can build the same sense of community and celebration.

At this time, DHS does not advise large gatherings, and there is no projected timeframe available as to when this advisory would change. This includes but is not limited to fairs, festivals, parades, and conferences.  https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/distance.htm    

In terms of planning events for this fall, the best guidance is to proceed with caution. Begin with asking how you will ensure physical distancing and sanitation and other protective measure recommendations required to slow the spread of disease. Also, consider attendees who are high risk, such as grandparents or those with chronic medical conditions. They should not be asked to choose between putting their health at risk or missing an important memory.

Any entity that is organizing an event should check with their legal counsel and insurance company to be sure they are operating on a firm understanding of their liabilities. Likewise, any municipality that is issuing a license or permit for these types of events should check with their legal counsel and insurance company to be sure they are operating on a firm understanding of their liabilities. If an entity makes the determination to not follow current recommendations, that is their prerogative, but an outbreak attributed to that event may be the burden of the promoters.  Furthermore, if an entity does decide to proceed with an event, how will the safety of participants be planned for, managed, enforced and assured? 

A COVID-19 Safety Plan should indicate:

·      Social Distancing: How will social distancing be planned for and assured?  Will capacity be limited? What if larger than expected crowds occur, how will this be managed?

·      Face Coverings/Masks: On Friday, July 30, 2020, Governor Evers declared a Public Health Emergency and issued an Emergency Order requiring individuals to wear face coverings when indoors and not in a private residence, with some exceptions as clarified and defined in the order. The order was effective Saturday, August 1, 2020, and will expire on September 28, 2020 or by a subsequent superseding order. Executive Order #82 declaring a public health emergency is available here and Emergency Order #1 requiring face coverings statewide is available here

·      Hand Washing and Hand Sanitizing: It should include hand sanitizing stations or hand washing stations generously distributed throughout the event area.

·      Surface Sanitizing: Sanitizing frequently touched surfaces. Sanitizing portable toilets and sitting areas and tables should be frequent. The plan should indicate how they will assure sanitizing will occur.

·      Food: Buffet type food serving systems are strongly discouraged.

See next page for current recommendations specifying limits on gatherings.

Limits on Gatherings*

*Individuals who are at higher risk should consider taking additional precautions

Guidance to follow:

DHS Interim guidance: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/protect.htm  

CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/large-events/index.html

CDC: https://content.govdelivery.com/attachments/topic_files/WIDHS/WIDHS_172/2020/05/15/file_attachments/1452257/CDC-reopen-decision-trees__1452257.pdf

Iowa County is currently in Phase 2 of 4: Recommendations may move forward or back as we monitor the status of our dashboard metrics each week. Some of the key data we are monitoring includes the percent of positive tests, local health and response system capacity, community spread and management of outbreaks. See the full COVID-19 Dashboard at the Iowa County website.

Recommendations for Indoor gatherings; public or private:

Phase 1 guidance:

10 people maximum (not including employees); must maintain physical distancing & protective measures

Phase 2 guidance: (current phase 9/8/2020)

25 people maximum; physical distancing and protective measures must be maintained

Phase 3 guidance:

50 people maximum; physical distancing and protective measures must be maintained

Phase 4 guidance:

100 people maximum; physical distancing and protective measures must be maintained

Recommendations for Outdoor gatherings; public or private:

Phase 1 guidance:

25 people maximum (not including employees); must maintain physical distancing & protective measures

Phase 2 guidance: (current phase 9/8/2020)

50 people maximum; physical distancing and protective measures must be maintained

Phase 3 guidance:

100 people maximum; physical distancing and protective measures must be maintained

Phase 4 guidance:

250 people maximum; physical distancing and protective measures must be maintained

General guidance for all residents:

Physical Distancing and Protective Measures*

*Individuals who are at higher risk (those over 60 and/or with underlying medical conditions) should consider taking additional precautions; telework & tele-education, limiting time outside their home, avoiding crowds of people is encouraged

Guidance to follow:

WEDC: https://wedc.org/reopen-guidelines/

CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html

DHS: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/protect.htm

Maintain physical distancing and protective measures in all phases

Wash hands often

Cover coughs

Don’t go out if ill, contact provider about being tested for COVID-19

Use of mask or cloth face covering

Surface and object cleaning

Isolation of positive cases

Quarantine of contacts of positive cases

Voluntary quarantine of travelers from high-risk areas

Physical distancing to 6 feet

COVID 19 resources…

What is COVID-19? How it Spreads and Who’s at Risk?

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/how-covid-spreads.html

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html

Coronavirus is a novel (new) virus so the majority of us have no protection. The tools we currently have to reduce spread are social distancing and additional protective measures of handwashing, wearing cloth masks and cleaning and disinfecting surfaces. They are the only tools we have until we get more treatments and a vaccine.

How can I protect myself and others around me?

Does a mask protect me?  Do I need to wash my groceries?

What about gatherings of people?

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html

https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/protect.htm

Staying safe at work and taking care of yourself

https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/employers.htm

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/index.html

Travel

https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/travel.htm

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html

Additional Important Sources of Information

https://www.iowacounty.org/departments/COVID-19

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

Social Media sites:

Iowa County Public Health on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/iowacountyhealthdepartment/

Upland Hills Health on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/UplandHillsHealthHospital/              

Iowa County Emergency Management on Twitter - https://twitter.com/ICEMWI

Iowa County Emergency Management on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/icemwi/

Monitor the following websites:

Iowa County COVID 19  https://www.iowacounty.org/

Upland Hills Health https://www.uplandhillshealth.org/patient-visitors/covid-19/

WI Department of Health Services (DHS) https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/outbreaks/index.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html