Minnesota State Fair strongly urges masks and vaccinations
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota State Fair officials on Wednesday strongly urged fairgoers to mask up inside and outside, but stopped short of imposing any mask or vaccination mandates to fight the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus.
The updated guidance urges attendees to wear masks indoors, whether vaccinated or not; outdoors in crowded settings, especially for the unvaccinated; and at some booths where vendors will require everyone inside to wear a mask.
Fair officials acknowledged that as the Great Minnesota Get-Together returns after a one-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the new guidance could put a dent in attendance, which normally tops 2 million.
“We understand that by urging rather than requiring people to follow current guidance, many of our usual fair fans will not be comfortable attending,” the guidance said. “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.”
Minnesota’s is one of several Midwestern state fairs this year where masks generally aren’t required and vaccines are free. Visitors who can’t get vaccinated ahead of time can get a COVID-19 shot at North End Event Center during the fair, which opens Thursday Aug. 26 and runs through Labor Day.
The guidance noted that the vast majority of new COVID-19 cases in Minnesota are among unvaccinated people. The fair isn’t requiring proof of vaccination or recent negative tests, but urged fairgoers who haven’t been vaccinated yet to do so.
“We are largely an outdoor event with plenty of eating and drinking,” officials said. “Mandating masks fairgrounds-wide would be extremely difficult for our organization to enforce, so we are urging you to pitch in and do what’s right. Particularly if you go inside, simply put a face covering on for the time you’re shopping or visiting an exhibit.”
To spread people out, the fair urged visitors to consider attending on a weekday rather than a weekend. The fair’s website will have a regularly updated gauge indicating how busy the fairgrounds are.
Masks will be required, regardless of vaccination status, in the Care & Assistance and First Aid buildings and in the North End Event Center, where people can go to donate blood or get a vaccine. The unvaccinated are also required to wear masks to ride a trolley on the fairgrounds. Many people get to the fairgrounds via public transit; federal regulations require passengers to wear masks on buses and while waiting for them.
Minnesota is offering unvaccinated residents who get their first shot by Sunday $100 Visa gift cards as a reward. And officials added a new incentive Wednesday: Adults who get vaccinated at a pop-up clinic outside U.S. Bank Stadium before Saturday’s Vikings game against Indianapolis will be eligible to enter a draw for two pairs of tickets in the stadium’s luxury Medtronic Club for the Vikings-Packers game on Nov. 21. The first 100 people who are vaccinated at the clinic, near the light rail station, also will be able to choose from a variety of autographed Vikings mini helmets, regardless of age.