Updated: August 18, 2021 07:33 PM
Created: August 18, 2021 09:46 AM
The Minnesota State Fair finalized its health guidelines heading into the 2021 event, urging people who attend to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and wear a mask in specific instances while attending but not mandating either.
"We understand that by urging rather than requiring people to follow current guidance, many of our usual fair fans will not be comfortable attending," a post on the fair's website read on Wednesday. "We ask that those who attend do so because they are willing to follow our health guidance — not because it's mandated, but because it's the right thing to do."
The fair is asking those who attend to make an informed decision before deciding to go. Citing the Minnesota Department of Health, individuals who are not yet fully vaccinated for COVID-19, immunocompromised individuals and their caregivers to reduce the risk by using layered protections such as avoiding large gatherings and wearing a mask indoors and outdoors when social distancing is not possible.
Gretchen Cantor, who runs the Space Tower, said she will implement measures on the ride to space people out.
"This year we are going to start out spreading people out by putting people on the top or bottom allowing them to get some distance,” Cantor said.
Cantor said she plans to wear a mask to protect herself and at-risk family members.
At her attraction, she's leaving it up to patrons to make the decision themselves to wear a mask.
"I think they're going to make up their minds and do what they remember doing in other years,” she said.
Minnesota State Fair vendor Juanita's Fajitas plans to bring the heat with or without a mask.
“I’m not worried,” Junaita's Fajitas owner Gan Runyon said. “We're going to get a feel from the crowd to see how they feel about it and see if they feel if we should be wearing masks."
Event organizers are also urging the public to get vaccinated. According to data from MDH, it's widely recognized that the vast majority of all current COVID-19 cases are among unvaccinated people. The fair is not requiring attendees to show proof of vaccination but strongly suggests getting a vaccine. There will be an opportunity to get a vaccine dose while at the state fairgrounds, located in the North Event Center during the 12-day event.
Additionally, the fair also urges both unvaccinated and vaccinated people to wear masks indoors and outdoors while in crowded settings. Some independent vendor booths will require everyone in the booth to wear masks as well. Riding any public transportation to the fair will also require masks, as federal regulations require it.
Fairground officials are urging patrons to be fully vaccinated and mask up, but it's not a rule.
“We did consider a mandate, but a mandate without effective enforcement really isn't anything at all,” Minnesota State Fair General Manager Jerry Hammer said.
Hammer said they barely have enough people to man the booths so finding extra hands to enforce a mandate was out the question.
"Things are changing frequently by the day and by the hour and we're doing the best we can to keep up with everything,” Hammer said.
Masks will also be available at the information booth and many building entrances if one is needed.
"We acknowledge that no event can be completely risk-free, and we're counting on you to do your part to help us present as safe an event as we can by following this health guidance," the fair said.
A group of state DFL lawmakers on Wednesday sent a letter to the Minnesota State Agricultural Society and the State Fair Board of Managers urging a mask requirement for all attendees.
The letter, co-authored by state Reps. Kelly Morrison and Liz Boldon and Sens. Matt Klein, Chris Eaton and Erin Murphy, calls on the organizations in charge of the fair to implement a mask policy, citing "plateauing vaccination rates and surging cases of COVID-19 due to the Delta variant."
They also point to the start of the school year directly after the fair, saying a lack of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will add "undue risk for students, educators, and staff who want and need to return to the classroom."
"We have the knowledge, foresight, and ability to ensure the safety of Minnesotans and integrity of our healthcare system. In Minnesota, we look out for each other, and right now, that means wearing a mask to protect our family, friends and neighbors. Let us not be guided by the emotion or politics of the issue and make the right choice, and the safe choice, for all," the letter concludes.
For more information on tips and other things to know about this year's state fair, click here.
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