Morning Update: Tuesday, Feb. 1

Today's weather: ☁️ Cloudy and mild. High: 40° Low: 10°

Good morning, Madison.

Happy Tuesday, happy Lunar New Year, and happy Black History Month!

Yesterday, a reader reached out to us wondering where they could pick up free N95 masks courtesy of the Biden administration. If you'll recall, the federal government announced in late January it would distribute 400 million N95 masks from the Strategic National Stockpile to pharmacies and community health centers across the country.

Those masks finally started to reach local shelves last week and every person in the U.S. is allowed three free masks.

There are more than a dozen retailers participating in the program in Wisconsin, including Costco, CVS, Hy-Vee, Kroger, Meijer, Walmart, and Walgreens. For a full list of participating pharmacies, check out the government website here. I've also added that link to our Covid-19 resource section of the newsletter, because if one person asked the question, at least five more people have had the same thought.

Now let's dig into the news.

— Hayley

🦠 A new omicron variant has been detected in Dane County.

  • Officials from Public Health Madison & Dane County confirmed Monday a single case of Omicron BA.2 has been detected in Dane County. So far, it's the only confirmed case of the new variant in Wisconsin.
  • The strain has been dubbed “stealth omicron” and has been found to be about 50% more infectious than the previous strain. It's been found in 40 countries so far.
  • Some good news: It seems individuals who were exposed to the “first” strain of omicron may have immunity from the new strain. Experts say booster shots may also provide strong protection against the new strain.

😋 Good news for fans of the Streatery.

  • WTF is a "Streatery"? The city's Streatery program was born out of pandemic necessity. It allows Madison restaurants to expand outdoor seating beyond what had previously been allowed by ordinance (think Lucille, Tipsy Cow, Settle Down, etc.).
  • Two new ordinances and two amendments will be introduced at tonight's City Council meeting that would formally allow for the expansion of sidewalk cafés into the road, keeping many aspects of the “Streatery” program in place, the State Journal reports.
  • The program has been wildly successful and critical for restaurants struggling to stay in business amid a global pandemic. The city reportedly accepted 175 businesses into its extended Streatery program last year.

📸: @FindingSalas

👪 Take a Madison Minication in February and save 40%.

  • Grab your friends, kids, dog, or just yourself, and take a Madison Minication. Book now and stay between Feb. 11 – 22 and save up to 40% on hotel prices. (Matching PJs encouraged.)
  • Book now.

🚧 A new development could be coming to the SASY neighborhood.

  • For the record: SASY is the acronym and colloquial name for the Schenk-Atwood-Starkweather-Yahara neighborhood on Madison's East side.
  • Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, located at 2165 Linden Ave., recently merged with Lakeview Moravian Community Church and the congregation has given its blessing to allow developers to demolish the building and construct an $8 million, three-story housing project with underground parking.
  • Initially, developers proposed turning the property into an owner-occupied, 30-unit condo building. But over time, plans changed, and now the project will likely be a rental apartment building, much to the chagrin of some neighbors. A rental building would mean zoning changes, which has given some concerns.
  • An informational presentation on the development was given to the city's Urban Design Commission late last week and no approvals or decisions were made at the time.

🤎 Celebrating Black History Month in Madison.

🍼 Your lunchtime read: 'It doesn’t have to be this way': How expanding paid leave could ease working parent woes, labor crunch.

  • From WPR: "Without paid leave, women are more likely to leave the workforce for longer periods — even years — after giving birth. The tradeoff affects career prospects, financial stability, mental health and infant development — all while shaping the broader economy."

🦉 I hope you're not sick of owl content yet.

  • Big thanks to Madison Minutes readers Linda Deith and Jeff Steele for sharing these awesome images of everyone's new favorite bird, the snowy owl. If you ever have an image you want to share with the group (or on our Instagram) please reach out to

🦠 Covid-19 Update

Wisconsin Vaccination Rate: 59.3%

Dane County Vaccination Rate: 77.1%


Here's where to find a COVID-19 vaccine near you.

📅 Events: Tuesday, Feb. 1