by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
As some Democratic governors hold firm on capacity restrictions for outdoor events, a new model shows that state and county fairs can safely occur this summer at full capacity without mask mandates.
According to models created by simulation technology company Epistemix, outdoor fairs operating at full capacity would cause zero increase in the spread of coronavirus if the local population has at least 70 percent immunity. With many states on pace to reach the 70 percent benchmark within months, fairgoers should be set to safely enjoy events without restrictions by mid-summer, the company found.
A rollback of coronavirus restrictions would come as a major boost to the community organizations and small businesses that rely on fairs as a crucial source of revenue. In New York, for example, removing capacity restrictions would allow an additional 50,000 people to flock to the state fairgrounds. Fairs contribute roughly $4.7 billion to the national economy each year—revenue that local businesses lost out on in 2020.
Officials in New York, however, have announced that restrictions will remain in place. Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the state’s fair will be held in August at just 50 percent capacity. County and local fairs are also required to limit attendees to maintain social distancing. In Washington, meanwhile, Governor Jay Inslee is allowing no more than 9,000 attendees at special outdoor events, forcing multiple counties to impose capacity limits on fairs scheduled for late August.
International Association of Fairs and Expositions president Marla Calico said she hopes the model will convince state and local officials to rescind capacity limits and help fair organizers survive after last year’s cancellations. The hesitancy of state officials to follow the science presented by Epistemix puts fair organizers in a difficult position, she says.