Organizers of the Dane County Fair announced Wednesday the event will be held in person at the Alliant Energy Center July 15-18.
The event, which was held virtually last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will have safety regulations in place and more details posted on the fair’s website once plans are finalized. Though the Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide mask mandate Wednesday, Dane County has maintained its mask mandate and the Dane County Fair Association, Inc. will abide by the policies in place at the time of the event.
Organizers said the decision was made after careful consideration and cited the vaccine distribution and Dane County’s response to the pandemic as factors which played a role in allowing an in-person event.
UW Expert of Population Health Sciences Oguzhan Alagoz said the dropping number of COVID-19 cases — and more importantly the increasing vaccination rates — are allowing policymakers to relax restrictions and allow for more events like the Dane County Fair.
“Over the summer through vaccination, we will be able to have a significant control on the pandemic,” Alagoz said. “So that’s the reason that I think more and more [in-person events] like this can happen. The same goes for the in-person commencement, which you didn’t expect around six months ago.”
As of Tuesday, 38.2% of Dane County residents received at least one vaccine dose.
Dane County vaccination efforts are slightly ahead of the state’s vaccination efforts, said UW Health’s Chief Quality Officer Dr. Jeff Pothof. Pothof said UW Health is currently working on additional efforts to vaccinate underrepresented minorities with lower levels of vaccination, particularly because minorities have been most impacted by the pandemic.
“In general vaccination is one of a handful of factors that goes into decisions to either dial up or dial down mitigation strategies against COVID-19,” said Pothof. “As we have increased levels of vaccination … it’s one of those factors that does allow us to dial down some of those mitigation efforts just because the risk of spreading COVID-19 starts to decrease as people get vaccinated at higher rates.”
Pothof said organizers of in-person events should consistently monitor the local data and trajectory around COVID-19 spread. Pothof said despite decreases hospitalizations and robust vaccine rollouts, the pandemic will not be completely over by summertime. COVID-19 variants, Pothof said, will also impact the safety of in-person events.
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Even when vaccination levels are high, it is uncertain whether or not certain vaccines will be effective against new variants, according to Alagoz. Alagoz said people should stay cautious of risk, even at outdoor in-person activities where transmission risk is smaller.
“I think people should definitely still wear masks,” Alagoz said. “I suggest people to follow the new designs and recommendations of organizers, and again, still follow simple steps… stay away six feet from each other.”
Pothof said to carefully weigh the pros and cons of going to in-person events, as any in-person event will still carry transmission risks. For those not comfortable going to the Dane County Fair in person, the fair will be showcasing and judging youth projects online and through video conference.