Public health experts give green light to state fair, with safety precautions
Starting Friday, North Texans can salute Big Tex again at the State Fair.
In 2020, the pandemic changed the way people attended the annual event, shifting to a drive-thru experience. This year, things seem a little more normal: a fully vaccinated Big Tex has ditched his mask and people can move around like old times.
Still, coronavirus cases continue to rise, leading public health experts to ask visitors to follow certain safety guidelines.
People should attend the fair vaccinated and masked, said Dr. Mark Casanova, a member of the Texas Medical Association’s COVID-19 task force. If they are not vaccinated, however, they should “absolutely, positively” don a face covering.
Casanova also encourages unvaccinated people at high risk of complications to sit down this year.
“As a Dallasite and a Texan, and considering what the fair does for our community and the economy, we certainly want it to succeed,” said Casanova, who is also the former president of Dallas County Medical. Society. “We just don’t want it to be a superspreader event.”
At the height of the pandemic last year, a number of events, festivals and fairs were canceled to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Even though Dallas County’s threat level is still in the red, the North Texans are ready to come back at whatever they can.
The fair has certain advantages that work in its favor, said Casanova: It is a large physical space and mainly outdoors. On the other hand, the fair has a few covered halls, but they tend to be quite large and reasonably ventilated.
At the same time, areas with high concentrations are of concern, such as long lines for tickets, restrooms or food, Casanova said. People should take advantage of the “plethora” of hand sanitizing stations that will be scattered throughout the site.
“It’s better to focus on how we can participate in these activities safely.” – Dr. Rajesh Nandy
Last year the fair closed due to a less virulent strain than the delta variant, he said. Still, revelers should be able to enjoy a cold beer and a turkey leg, provided they put their mask back on between sips and bites.
“But if you’re on a tilt-a-whirl, and you yell and yell and unmask yourself, that’s going to cause a lot of droplets to spread,” he said.
The State Fair of Texas encourages people to wear masks and enforce face coverings indoors, according to its website. The use of masks outdoors is recommended, but officials say law enforcement would find it difficult for them to keep up.
The fair will also provide over 500 free hand sanitizer stations throughout the grounds. In addition, they ask that everyone get vaccinated, which they can do during the fair. There, anyone 12 and older can receive a first or second dose of the Pfizer vaccine or a booster shot for immunocompromised people, according to a news release.
Dallas County residents who get vaccinated will receive $20 in coupons for rides and food.
Fair Park is one of the most recognized sites in the county where residents can receive the COVID-19 vaccine, said Dr. Philip Huang, director of the county health department.
“We hope that everyone who is not yet vaccinated will take advantage of this additional opportunity to get vaccinated,” he said in the statement.
Some North Texans are determined to attend the fair regardless of what happens with the pandemic, said Dr. Rajesh Nandy, professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of North Texas Health Sciences Center. .
“It’s very difficult to be under complete restriction of all activities for such a long time, so it’s really too much to ask of people at this point anyway,” he said. “It is better to focus on how we can participate in these activities safely.
Going forward, however, Nandy doesn’t expect case increases to peak as high as anything scientists have seen in the past. There is some evidence to suggest that more people are willing to comply with masking guidelines, which will help bring cases under control.
But saying goodbye to the virus is still a long way off. As things stand, Nandy said it might be difficult to completely prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“Unless there is a big increase in vaccination, what will essentially happen is that we will have these cycles of ups and downs for the foreseeable future,” he said.