The Biscuit Booth will be bigger, and the Beef Barn will be open, but concerns about COVID-19 safety at the Mississippi State Fair linger. Photo courtesy Mississippi State Fairgrounds
As the U.S. passes the grim milestone of 200,000 COVID-19 deaths, the Mississippi State Fair is scheduled to open on Oct. 7, albeit with new restrictions and safety precautions.
At his Friday press conference Gov. Tate Reeves answered questions about the safety of holding the fair during a pandemic. “There are risks in life, but we've got to do everything we can to mitigate, minimize those risks to protect lives, but also to protect livelihoods,” Reeves said.
Planned safety precautions include oversight by a safety marshal, entrance screening for mask use, mandated social distancing and spacing on rides.
When asked whether such a large gathering would require a change to his current executive orders, Reeves said it would be allowed under recently expanded guidelines. “I think it’s more of a business operation than it is a social gathering. The revenues that are generated actually help maintain the fairgrounds and other things,” Reeves said.
State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs shared a more cautious view of the fair. “It does concern me but certainly understand that as we move through this we’re trying to find things that people can do safely and live our lives a little bit,” Dobbs said. “I still would recommend people who are maybe older or have chronic medical issues that might be worried about it to do everything you can to mitigate risk, and that might be to avoid crowds of this magnitude.”
The Mississippi Department of Health reported 465 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, with 36 deaths. Weekend reports included 655 cases with 17 deaths on Saturday and 277 cases with one death on Sunday, while Monday’s report showed 192 cases but no deaths.
The numbers have improved since the summer, and no particular spike has been associated with Labor Day activities, although school outbreaks continue to spread. “We cannot let up on the gas. Now is really the time to put our foot to the floor and make sure we continue to stamp down COVID-19,” Reeves said.
Dobbs reiterated that free testing is available to all Mississippians by appointment. “You don't have to have a confirmed exposure, but if you're worried about being exposed, please get tested if you feel so inclined. But additionally anyone in K-12 or or childcare settings can go just because they want to,” Dobbs said.
The testing schedule can be found here. University of Mississippi Medical Center screening schedule is available here.
Read the JFP’s coverage of COVID-19 at jacksonfreepress.com/covid19. Get more details on preventive measures here. Email state intern Julian Mills at [email protected].