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MDH discussing COVID safety strategy with State Fair officials

Renewed concern comes after Minnesota health leaders identified seven COVID-19 outbreaks at fairs, and two others associated with concerts.

ST PAUL, Minn. — When it was announced in June that this year's Minnesota State Fair would be mask-free and without capacity limits, no one anticipated the most recent surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the delta variant. 

The public now awaits a possible change, as the State Fair general manager told the Star Tribune they are considering an indoor mask mandate.

"We've been talking about what appropriate mitigation strategies they can consider," Kris Ehresmann, the Minnesota Department of Health's infectious disease director, said. 

Ehresmann added that they are actively discussing safety strategies with State Fair leaders like masking, more handwashing stations and encouraging a one-way flow through buildings so people come face-to-face less often. 

The renewed concern comes after Ehresmann says MDH identified seven COVID-19 outbreaks at fairs, and two others associated with concerts.

"Some of the new data that we're seeing from outbreaks more recently is making us consider that this new variant may be that much more transmissible -- even in outdoor settings," Ehresmann said. 

Gov. Tim Walz believes some sort of COVID rules would make the State Fair more desirable to more people than no rules -- but he points out the decision is up to the fair.

"If people don't feel there are going to be mitigation efforts at the State Fair, that's going to pull back down some of the attendance," Walz said. 

The State Fair did not comment for this story, but say they will post an update on their website. 

Currently, it says masks are not required but are strongly encouraged for unvaccinated people, and they won't require proof of vaccination.

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