A resident of Springfield, Missouri, since 2005 and owner of a local brewery, Tignor said nothing could “get her out there” this year, even if she is fully vaccinated.
“As you sit in a crowd, six in 10 people around you probably haven’t been vaccinated,” Tignor told CNN. “And that just seems like a risk I’m not prepared to take. “
Springfield, where the Ozark Empire Fair will be held from July 29 to August 7, is in Greene County, one of the state’s Covid hotspots.
Springfield’s Mercy Hospital registered 148 positive cases of Covid-19 on Thursday, a historic record, said Sonya Kullmann, a spokesperson for the hospital. Greene County currently had 4,663 active cases as of Friday morning, according to its website.
Greene County, with a completed vaccination rate of around 35%, has declared a local emergency. Missouri Governor Mike Parson has sent additional resuscitation ambulances and medical personnel to the area in anticipation of the increase in cases.
But the fair, which will feature food, a Ferris wheel and an exotic petting zoo – marketed on its website as “the biggest party of summer” – will not be canceled.
“Entertainment across the country takes place with much more attendance every day, in a much more confined space than what we offer,” Aaron Owen, general manager of the fair, told CNN. “I’ve been worried about all of this, I know (the Delta variant) is real. But farmers and farmers are putting their livelihoods on the line. There are a lot of factors that we have to take into account. “
The fair’s planning committee, separate from city and county management, plans to put precautions against Covid-19 in place, Owen said. These include social distancing and handwashing stations throughout the park.
He said people would not be required to wear face masks, although the fair’s website has obsolete the Covid-19 guidelines with mask warrants that are no longer in place. The page was last updated in April.
Owen said he sold 70,000 tickets in 2020 and said he believed there was no evidence of the spread of Covid, based on conversations he had with some sellers after the fair. More vendors will be present this year than last year.
Loverboy, a Canadian rock band originally scheduled to perform at the fair, have canceled their appearance due to travel restrictions in Canada, according to KYTV.
In the meantime, the city of Springfield has canceled its own annual event, the Birthplace of Route 66 festival. Cora Scott, the city’s director of public information and festival organizer, said the expected attendance would have exceeded 65,000 people. , with a parade that would have celebrated the efforts of healthcare workers during the pandemic.
“The Delta variant basically put us on our heels,” Scott said. “I was disappointed that our community was not at a point with vaccinations that we could have this celebration. ”
Over the coming week, the Mercy Hospital data team predicts positive cases will reach around 190, Kullmann said. The hospital converted six units into Covid-19 care units, she said.
“We’re stretched at this point,” Kullmann said.
Dr Alex Hover, president of the Missouri State Medical Association, said he credits Springfield with the cancellation of the Route 66 festival and that as a Springfield resident he will not attend the Ozark Empire fair.
“Hearing from the staff doctors (of the hospital), it’s a great tension and the hospitals are certainly at their maximum capacity,” Hover said. “If the fair continues and people attend, we urge them to mask themselves and try to respect social distancing as much as possible. “
Nick Palmer lives in neighboring Lawrence County and suffers from several chronic illnesses that put him at risk from Covid-19. Palmer expressed concern about the impacts of the fair on hospitals and the availability of beds for people who do not have Covid.
“It reminds me of the movie ‘Jaws’, when the mayor says, ‘The beaches will be open,’” said Palmer. “The priorities are turned upside down. They worry more about the sustainability of the fair than what will happen to the people who attend. “