handwashing station

A handwashing station.

This year the Deschutes County Fair & Rodeo will have more hand-washing stations, more hand sanitizer bottles and more room for people to spread out.

As a way to organize a fair that is safe against the spread of COVID-19, the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center will only sell 25,000 tickets a day for each of the five days of the annual event, said Geoff Hinds, fair director. That’s half the usual number of daily admission tickets.

“We’re working to make this the safest possible event,” Hinds said. “We’re doing everything we can to provide a safe place for this activity.”

Normally the fair attracts about 300,000 people at the 340-acre site off U.S. Highway 97, he said. The concerts will be held outdoors, another nod to health concerns about large gatherings. The livestock entries showcased will only be for youth, not adults, Hinds said.

“It’s a reduction over what we’d normally do to allow for more distancing,” Hinds said. “We’re not exceeding any of the current state of Oregon mandates.”

People who are immune-compromised or unvaccinated should plan on wearing a mask, said Emily Freeland, Deschutes County Environmental Health specialist.

“It’s always good to give those extra layers of protection.”

The fair officials have been working with county health officials to work out health precautions. A booth will be set up at the fair, as well, for anyone wishing to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Once Central Oregon’s three counties hit a 65% vaccination rate, many of the government-mandated COVID-19 restrictions were lifted by Gov. Kate Brown.

The standard rules apply to keep healthy at the fair. Freeland said that anyone not feeling well with cold or flu symptoms should stay home and get tested for COVID-19. And wash hands frequently, especially after touching high-traffic areas and before eating.

“These are things we’ve been talking about in public health for a long time,” she said. “Handwashing, in particular, is something that should be a carry-over from COVID-19.”

Because COVID-19 germs do not carry over to food, the real risk of exposure for non-vaccinated and immune-compromised people is from the crowds.

“The fairgrounds is a big space,” Freeland said. “It’s one of the largest in the state, that makes a pretty big difference and people can spread out.”

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Reporter: 541-633-2117, sroig@bendbulletin.com

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