It was not on purpose, but Dane County did a good experiment that shows how simple public health measures can have profound effects. In late May, early June, Wisconsin moved into phase 3 of its reopening plan allowing gyms, bars, and restaurants to have some indoor activity. Unfortunately, many young people went back to the bars and ignored social distancing rules. This caused a rapid increase in cases starting on June 16th. Cases peaked on June 30th and began declining. Did COVID-19 run its course? Of course not. So why did they start going down?
First, several State Street bars closed on their own because they could see what was happening. Then local health officials closed all bars ahead of the July 4th holiday. Then Dane County health officials issued a mandatory mask mandate beginning July 14th that requires all citizens to wear a mask when in any enclosed building beyond their homes. Cases began seriously dropping 10 days after the bars closed and accelerated in the last week. We are nearly down to the baseline level of the March-April period. Clearly social distancing and wearing masks can stop this epidemic. Will we stop the epidemic of stupid in this country and start doing what we need to do?
This has important implications for this fall when many of the students come back. We can keep almost everyone healthy if we are willing to follow guidelines and carefully monitor the population. I think the UW as a good plan going forward. One of the keystones of it is testing the dorm population every two weeks. The UW has the ability to test 6,000 people a week. They have also set aside facilities for those who test positive to quarantine.