Residents of Eau Claire County will be allowed to gather in bigger groups, both indoors and outside, during the next two weeks, as local health officials slowly loosen COVID-19 restrictions put in place this spring.

The Eau Claire City-County Health Department’s newest order, which went into effect at 12 a.m. today, allows up to 50 people at indoor gatherings and up to 100 at gatherings outside.

It’s a significant broadening of the last order, which limited indoor gatherings to 10 people and outdoor ones to 20.

People at large gatherings still must obey social distancing rules, said Lieske Giese, director of the Eau Claire City-County Health Department, at a news conference Wednesday.

People who organize big gatherings also still have to take down names, addresses, email addresses and phone numbers for attendees, to help contact tracers if someone tests positive.

“The requirements for physical distancing and cleaning … remain the same,” Giese said. “Those are important public health principles and we expect many, if not all of those, to remain standing for a significant amount of time while we have disease in the community.”

Sporting events are considered possible indoor or outdoor gatherings, according to the county.

If paid employees or volunteers are working at an event, they’re excluded from the attendee limit.

People who provide one-on-one personal services, like nail salon employees and hairstylists, are no longer limited to seeing 10 or fewer customers per day. Instead, the county is removing the restriction on client numbers, but recommends they provide services to just 20 or fewer people per day.

There are no new or fewer restrictions on businesses in the new order. Businesses can remain open, with the same rules about social distancing, screening of guests and limits on occupancy.

The countywide order will be in effect until June 24.

It is the Health Department’s third two-week-long order aimed at dampening the spread of the virus.

Countywide orders, which officials hope will continue to slowly loosen rules on gatherings and businesses, are set to continue as the virus does, Giese said.

Cases continue to tick up in Eau Claire County, but the rise appears to have slowed. The county has found 27 cases in the most recent two weeks, compared to 38 new cases during the two weeks before, according to county data.

As of Wednesday, two new county residents tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total to 126. Of those, 106 have recovered, Giese said Wednesday.

The county has tested over 6,000 people for the virus.

The full Eau Claire County public health order can be found at the county’s COVID-19 site, covid19eauclaire.org.

Contact: 715-833-9206, sarah.seifert@ecpc.com,

@sarahaseifert on Twitter

Sarah Seifert is the L-T's education and health reporter. She has worked as a journalist in the Chippewa Valley since 2017 and joined the L-T in 2019. Get in touch at sarah.seifert@ecpc.com or on Twitter @sarahaseifert.