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While organizers are upbeat about coronavirus mitigation efforts at the Fayette County Fair last week, the county’s Board of Health issued another statement on Tuesday recommending against mass gatherings, if social distancing is not possible, during this pandemic.

The board made a similar statement in the week before the Fair opened.

“(The) Fayette County Board of Health continues to share concerns over mass gatherings within the county as we see an upward trend to our COVID-19 positive cases,” the new statement says. “As mass gatherings are one of the easiest ways for COVID-19 to spread, the Fayette County Board of Health recommends NOT holding mass gatherings when social distancing can NOT occur.”

The board members are Clint Ambroson, of West Union; Pat Hunsberger, of Elgin; Hannah Lauer, of Waucoma, Dr. Anthony Leo, of Oelwein and County Supervisor Jeanine Tellin, of Maynard, according to the county’s website.

The confirmed number of people sickened with COVID-19 in Fayette County was on the rise before the Fair began. Since March the county has accumulated 71 cases, as of Tuesday, with 33 recovered, according to Iowa Department of Health tracking. Nearly half of those infections, 34 cases, were confirmed this month.

Fayette County’s case total is lower than most of its adjacent counties: Black Hawk (2,873), Bremer (167), Allamakee (145), Buchanan (91), Clayton (84), Delaware (79), Winneshiek (71) and Chickasaw (48).

Fayette County has had no deaths linked to the virus, while Winneshiek and Buchanan each have seen one death, Black Hawk has had 62 followed by Bremer with seven and Clayton County with three.

Fair Board President Kevin Converse told the Union Echo Leader newspaper that he heard a lot of positive feedback about going forward with the Fair and its coronavirus mitigation.

“I’d like to give a big shout out to all our sanitation and cleaning people,” he said. “I thought they went above and beyond and really worked hard to keep the areas clean. I heard lots of comments how great everything looked.”

He added that attendance at the grandstand events was about what they anticipated.

“I’m very proud of the (Fair Board),” he told the newspaper. “They really stepped up and we really worked together to pull this off. It was really a learning experience for all of us, and in some ways I think many fairs will be dealing with the issues we dealt with this year next year, and we will be a step ahead.”

Fayette County Extension Youth Coordinator Michele Kelly told the Union Echo Leader that she thought “all went very well” with the youth events.

“Yes, there were a few upset individuals that didn’t like the fact that the animals were not allowed to stay all week, spectators were limited in the show barn and that the Clover Cafe wasn’t open, but because Iowa State University Extension and Outreach looks out for the safety and well-being of the youth, families, volunteers and staff, we knew that this was the right decision made in conjunction with Fayette County Extension Staff, Fayette County Extension Council and Fayette County Youth Development Committee members.”

The Health Board’s statement urged organizers to cancel events with mass gathering if social distancing is not possible.

“Mass gathering planning of large and small events should include mitigation efforts focusing on social distancing, masking, and proper cleaning and disinfecting,” the statement said. “Again, if social distancing is unable to occur, the Board of Health recommends cancelling the event at this time.

“If planning an event, please visit the CDC and IDPH websites for guidance on mass gatherings. There are many resources available to provide recommendations on readiness and planning a mass gathering, such as https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/large-events/index.html.

“Local public health is willing to review personal, organizational, business, school, community, and other mass gathering mitigation plans and offer feedback and recommendations to ensure the health and safety of the community as a whole. Call (563) 422-6267.

“By working together, we can continue to keep Fayette County safe for all residents. Thank you for all your efforts in fighting COVID-19.”

The Fayette County Fair Board had developed a COVID-19 mitigation plan, which it posted on the fair’s website. Board members considered the recommendations of local, state and national health officials as well at the fair’s insurance provider as they crafted the plan to allow for regular livestock shows, food vendors and grandstand entertainment, the plan says.

The Fair Board’s posted plan concludes: “Following the state of Iowa’s lead, personal responsibility is requested for people to determine if they feel comfortable attending the fair during this time. We ask that everyone be courteous to those around you and respect each other’s social distancing. We ask that anyone showing any symptoms not attend the fair. Face coverings are not required but are highly recommended to help slow the spread of COVID-19. High risk or vulnerable individuals are asked to consider staying home as well.”