Iowa State Fair releases updated COVID guidance: No mask rules, no capacity limits
There won't be any COVID-19 limits at the Iowa State Fair, though social distancing is encouraged and hand sanitizer and washing stations will be sprinkled through the fairgrounds, according to new rules published Friday on the fair's website.
The fair will also follow guidelines from the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention when the 11-day event opens Aug. 12.
The lack of restrictions includes no mask requirements and no capacity limits in buildings or on the fairgrounds. The website states that restrooms and other "high touch areas" will be cleaned regularly.
"Please stay home if you are sick, experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms or have been recently exposed to COVID-19," the safety update said. After the six-sentence bullet point about COVID-19, the fair website transitions to remind attendees that weapons are not allowed on the premises.
- The Iowa State Fair is back next month: Here's what you need to know about dates, tickets, parking and more
- Iowa State Fair Grandstand: Acts, showtimes and ticket prices for the fair's biggest stage in 2021
- Iowa State Fair tractor pulls, monster trucks, demolition derby tickets are on sale. Here's how to get them
The coronavirus pandemic led to the fair being canceled last year. Its return, and lack of anti-COVID-19 restrictions, is one more sign of Iowa marching back to normalcy.
CDC guidance gives a green light for fully vaccinated people to return to normal life. But it lists attending “a crowded, outdoor event, like a live performance, parade, or sports event” among the least safe events for unvaccinated people, even if they’re wearing masks.
About 48.5% of Iowa's population have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. Iowa Department of Public Health officials have also recently warned that Iowans should assume the more transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus is now circulating in their communities.
Lina Tucker Reinders, executive director of the Iowa Public Health Association, said it looks like the fair board is trying to do its best in providing a safe and fun environment in these odd times.
"We're in this weird gray zone where (the pandemic) kind of feels like it's over, but it's not over,” Tucker Reinders said. “It is still prudent to follow CDC recommendations, beginning with getting vaccinated."
The fair draws Iowans from all corners of the state, and vaccination rates vary across the state. While eight counties have vaccination rates higher than 50% of their total population, dozens have yet to crack 40% and in two counties less than 30% of residents are vaccinated.
Tucker Reinders says the fair may lead to some people getting sick, though not the numbers like the state experienced earlier in the pandemic before there was widespread access to vaccines. She’s especially concerned about people too young to be vaccinated and those with underlying health conditions that prevent vaccination.
“COVID-19 is now a preventable disease,” Tucker Reinders said. “You prevent it by getting vaccinated.”
Christina Gayman, a spokesperson for Hy-Vee, said the company is working with state fair officials to provide pop-up vaccine clinics at the fair; details were not yet available Friday.
It takes two weeks after the final dose for the vaccines to reach their full potential for protection. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines each require booster shots weeks after the initial dose to reach full efficacy.
On Wednesday, the Iowa Department of Public Health stopped publishing daily updates on virus activity on its website, coronavirus.Iowa.gov. It cited the state's work "to transition to COVID-19 pandemic recovery."
According to the last published update on Wednesday, 85 people were hospitalized in Iowa with COVID-19. That number is up from the recent low of 46 people hospitalized with COVID-19 the end of June, but still near what it was at the start of the pandemic last spring.
At the pandemic's height in Iowa in November, more than 1,500 people were hospitalized with the disease at the same time.
State officials also announced last month that they would be closing Test Iowa, the drive-thru coronavirus testing sites by mid-July. They cited a lack of demand for testing.
Nick Coltrain is a politics and data reporter for the Register. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 515-284-8361.