DES MOINES, Iowa
With the increase in coronavirus cases in Iowa and across the country, health experts are increasingly concerned about next month’s Iowa State Fair, which will bring more one million people in Des Moines statewide, including many counties with low vaccination rates and increasing disease prevalence.
Iowa’s biggest annual event comes at a time when giant summer events will draw crowds across the country, including states that are experiencing more viral infections due to low vaccination rates and the growth of the delta variant. They range from the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota to the Minnesota State Fair, which typically draws over 2 million people.
In Iowa, authorities have encouraged people to get vaccinated, but the state legislature and the Republican-majority governor have prevented local governments from imposing vaccination or mask requirements, he didn’t So there will be no limit as to who can attend the fair when the event begins its one-day run on August 12th.
“Sadly, our current leaders have turned their backs on science and what is at our disposal to fight this pandemic and let the people of Iowa fight what could be avoided,” said Dr. Megan Srinivas, a nationally recognized Iowa-based infectious disease physician. for his research, which includes COVID-19.
She said people mistakenly believe that being outdoors provides security, when the virus can actually spread in large, dense crowds such as state fairs and large concert halls.
“Anytime we see a large congregation of people, especially with mixed vaccination status, we’re going to see a high risk of transmission and an increase in transmission,” she said.
Additionally, the delta variant is two to three times more transmissible than previous viral strains, creating additional risk for fair visitors as they line up for food, share condiment dispensers, and jump on rides. carnival, Srinivas said.
The Iowa State Fair will be held in Polk County, where Department of Health spokesperson Nola Aigner Davis expressed concern about the state’s viral trends and her reluctance to get vaccinated or wear masks.
“We know what the numbers say. We know our cases are increasing. We know the trends are on the rise. What is the safe thing to do when people cannot get the vaccine? They have to wear a mask, ”Davis said.
When asked on Wednesday if she was concerned about infections at the Iowa State Fair, Gov. Kim Reynolds did not respond directly but advised potential visitors to get vaccinated and noted that most people hospitalized with COVID-19 had not been vaccinated.
“So it’s a decision they made,” she said. “They did the math on whether to do it or not and so I don’t think we should punish everyone because some made the decision not to do it.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Wednesday that 49% of Iowans were fully vaccinated, ranking the state 21st in the country. In at least 18 of 99 counties in Iowa, less than 40% of the population is vaccinated, and CDC data shows 35 counties with a high rate of spread and 12 counties with substantial spread of the virus.
Iowa also has the sixth-lowest testing rate in the country among states reporting the data, which could make it difficult to identify an outbreak if it occurs.
Srinivas said she was also concerned about RAGBRAI, an annual week-long bike ride through Iowa that continues through Saturday, drawing about 15,000 cyclists from across the country to small county towns with some of the lowest vaccination rates in the state.
She called it “the perfect environment for epidemics to happen.”
In South Dakota, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is expected to attract over 700,000 people. The event took place last year in the midst of the pandemic, resulting in 463 traced infections among rally enthusiasts. Many health experts called the event a “super-broadcaster”. Cellphone data shows that, for two weeks in August, the rally transforms the normally sleepy town of Sturgis into a travel hub comparable to a major American city. The event is scheduled this year from August 6 to 15.
“It’s sort of the perfect storm for the spread of a pandemic,” said Dr. Doug Lehmann, a doctor who runs a health clinic in Rapid City.
While South Dakota has seen significantly lower case rates this summer than last year, local doctors are still concerned that the massive crowds will lead to another wave.
“This year, many forces are coming together to make the situation potentially worse (than last year),” said Dr Jim Buchanan, a retired physician.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about 37% of people in Meade County – where the rally will be held – have been fully immunized.
In Chicago, the city’s top public health officials said on Tuesday she was still comfortable with the four-day Lollapalooza music festival scheduled to begin on Thursday. Organizers are requiring participants to show full proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result, Dr Allison Arwady said on Tuesday. People participating in the four days will need to be tested at least twice.
The festival, the city’s largest music event, is expected to draw 100,000 people every day to Chicago’s Grant Park. Those who are not fully vaccinated should wear face masks when attending the festival.
The Minnesota State Fair will return from August 26 after a one-year hiatus due to the pandemic. It typically attracts over 2 million visitors during its 12 days, which end on Labor Day.
Almost all of Minnesota’s pandemic restrictions have been lifted, so fair-minded officials aren’t anticipating daily attendance limits. As it stands, masks will not be mandatory for guests but are “strongly encouraged” for anyone not fully vaccinated. No proof of vaccination will be required. Hand sanitizer will be provided at various locations throughout the 322-acre fairground in the St. Paul suburb of Falcon Heights.
Garth Brooks fans will have the chance to get their COVID-19 vaccine when the country music star performs at Arrowhead Stadium on August 7. Chiefs chairman Mark Donovan said Monday the team plan to use every opportunity to offer vaccinations to Arrowhead, Kansas City. Star reported.
Steve Karnowski in Minneapolis, Stephen Groves in Sioux Falls, and Kathleen Foody in Chicago contributed to this report.