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Minnesota State Fair could require masks indoors, capacity limits not off the table

Things could change before Aug. 26, but an indoor mask mandate appears likely.

The Minnesota State Fair will likely require face masks indoors when it opens on Aug. 26.

Jerry Hammer, the fair's general manager, told Bring Me The News that while no final decision has been made as of Tuesday morning, an indoor mask mandate appears likely.

"Based on what we know today, that's a likely scenario," he said, though he noted things can change quickly.

The rapid spread of the highly transmissible delta variant and corresponding rise in infections has prompted a flurry of vaccine and/or mask-related requirement announcements from businesses, venues and institutions throughout the state, including the University of Minnesota, Target, First Avenue, and municipalities.

Related: MN now up to 45 counties with high or substantial COVID-19 transmission

Hammer said the State Fair is constantly monitoring the public health situation here and elsewhere. They're in regular communication with the Minnesota Department of Health, he added, and will continue to keep an eye on things over the next three weeks, during which new COVID-19 protocol announcements are possible.

An indoor face mask mandate would occur regardless of transmission levels in Ramsey County and regardless of a person's vaccination status, Hammer said, citing CDC guidelines. He said the fair's sign shops are making signs right now in anticipation of the decision.

As of Tuesday morning, the entire seven-county Twin Cities metro has "substantial" transmission, meaning the CDC recommends the use of masks in indoor public spaces.

Fair organizers also haven't ruled out a daily attendance limit should the situation require it, Hammer said. Discussions around COVID-19 are ongoing, as they have been for more than a year now, he said.

The State Fair officially got the green light in early June, shortly after Gov. Tim Walz lifted many of the state's pandemic measures. The fair, at the time, said barring significant shifts in the public health situation, there would be no vaccination requirement, no attendance limits and no face mask mandate (though masks are "strongly encouraged" for those who are not vaccinated).

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That is the official State Fair COVID-19 protocol at this time. But the "curveball" seen over the past week, with the delta variant and rapid spread among the unvaccinated, Hammer said, means organizers could implement new requirements in the weeks ahead.

The wide open, outdoor nature that defines most State Fair experiences helps, Hammer said, since the data shows transmission risk in the open air is low. 

The best thing people can do is get vaccinated, Hammer said, adding Minnesotans "wouldn't be having this situation" if the rates were higher.

"If you've been vaccinated, you've done your part. If you haven't, please do so ... and enjoy all the fair has to offer," Hammer said. "Protect yourself, protect others. That's the reality."

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