DeWine: Ohio county fairs need to do better, follow guidelines, amid pandemic

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fair sunset
(Farm and Dairy file photo)

Less than halfway into the 2020 fair season, some new COVID-19 cases have been traced back to a county fair, Gov. Mike DeWine said in his July 22 press conference. He called on Ohio county fairs to do a better job of sticking to state guidelines for fairs amid increasing COVID-19 cases.

“We do not want to be in a position … to close fairs,” he said. “Everybody is gonna have to own their own fair.”

DeWine also announced a statewide mask mandate, to go into effect July 23, which will include the fairs.

In June, the state came out with “what we felt were fairly simple orders, and some protocol to be followed by the fairs,” DeWine said.

These rules included limiting seating for grandstand events and avoiding large gatherings on midways or other parts of the fairgrounds.

“What we have, unfortunately, started to see is some fairs that were not following that,” DeWine said.

So far, only eight Ohio county fairs have taken place, some of them as full or modified fairs, others only as junior fairs. A few others are underway this week. From some, pictures of crowds and grandstands filled with people have made their way around social media. 

DeWine noted that 19 new COVID-19 cases were traced back to one county fair, though he did not say which one.

“We want these fairs to continue, but they have to follow the rules,” he said. 

DeWine held a conference call this morning with fair leaders across the state to discuss these issues. 

In addition to following the statewide rules, fairs also need to follow any guidelines from their local health departments. And, after the order announced today goes into effect July 23 at 6 p.m., people at the fairgrounds will need to wear masks, unless they are outside and able to socially distance.

“The evidence is just abundantly clear … masks work,” he said.

DeWine noted that one of the reasons the state offered extra funding to fairs for this year was so that they could afford to follow health and safety guidelines. 

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Reporter Sarah Donaldson is a former 4-Her and a Mount Union graduate from Columbiana County, Ohio. She enjoys playing and writing music, cooking, and storytelling in many forms. She can be reached at 800-837-3419 or sarah@farmanddairy.com.

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