Dane County is reporting a sharp increase in coronavirus cases, with 279 people testing positive for COVID-19 in the last five days.
Half of those new cases involve people in their 20s, and multiple cases have been linked to businesses near the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, local health officials said Thursday.
That means that just one day after Dane County posted a record number of new COVID-19 cases, a new record high was set in the county.
With the 279 people in Dane County testing positive for COVID-19, the seven-day case average there grew to 47 cases per day, officials said. In comparison, the seven-day average from mid-June was 17 cases per day.
That means COVID-19 cases in Dane County have nearly tripled in less than two weeks.
Health officials said they couldn’t say for certain what was fueling the surge in COVID-19 cases.
But long lines have been seen outside some Madison bars in recent days, with few patrons wearing masks. Madison has also witnessed large protests over racial injustice in recent weeks.
“We can’t speculate about the increase in cases, and it’s probably not due to just one thing, but in our contact tracing interviews it is evident that people are socializing more,” said Janel Heinrich, director of public health for Madison and Dane County. “The orders put in place are one part of a strategy, and we also need everyone to do their part to help prevent the spread of disease.”
As a result of the spike in cases, Dane County announced Thursday night that it was tightening some of its restrictions to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
Private gatherings are now limited to 10 people or fewer, bars and restaurants remain at 50% capacity but customers are required to use seating, which must be 6 feet from other parties, parties can only be seated with members of their own household, and no standing service is allowed.
Officials said that 35 of the recent cases have been connected to clusters, but noted that number would increase as contact tracers complete more interviews. Of the 279 new cases, 167 cases, or 60%, are from Madison and 112, or 40%, are from other cities the county.
Increased testing does not fully account for this upward trend in cases, they said.
Despite the surge in COVID-19 cases, there has not been a corresponding increase among people being admitted to the hospital or ICU, officials said. But they added that they are monitoring the numbers.
Given the surge in cases, it’s unlikely that Dane County will further loosen coronavirus-related restrictions “anytime soon,” Heinrich said.
Dane County Executive Joe Parisi urged people to wear masks and avoid gathering in groups.
“Our community is facing a real turning point with the now accelerating spread of COVID-19. It’s here, it’s spreading, it’s affecting more young people, and the risk of getting it is no less today than it was in March when the state started Safer at Home,” Parisi said. “If we don’t wear masks, if we gather in groups, if we go out in public excessively, we are at risk of amplifying this dangerous virus.”
Dane County was not one of the 19 Wisconsin counties listed by state health officials as having “high” coronavirus activity last week.