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As COVID cases increase, NY Fair continuing as planned, no restrictions, for now

New York State Fair.JPG
The New York State Fairgrounds.

The New York State Fair opens its gates for an 18-day run in two weeks. Plans continue for a fair with no restrictions, despite a surge in the delta variant of the coronavirus in New York state.

As Director Troy Waffner gets the final touches in place for opening day, the threat of the coronavirus hangs overhead. He said the fair reserves its right to pivot, if increasing numbers force new regulations to avoid spread of the coronavirus.

"We’re somewhat subjected to what the county does, and somewhat subjected to what the state Department of Health does, because we’re a state facility,” Waffner said. “The county has announced, I believe, that the only place they are going to require masks are in nursing homes, assisted living, that sort of things. So it shouldn’t affect the fair. We’ve reached out for guidance from the state Department of Health for any regulations we may see because we are a state facility."

Beyond what government regulations are in place, there have been some modifications to the fair with a nod to the pandemic. For example, traditionally, heavily-trafficked areas, like the Center of Progress building, have been reconfigured to allow for wider aisles. A handful of badly ventilated buildings won’t be opened at all, and there will be more space between vendors. COVID shots will also be offered on a walk-in basis at the Arts and Home Center. This is the first year the fair added five extra days to its run. While it might seem a bad time to make such a big leap, Waffner said it fits pandemic parameters perfectly, by bringing down the number of fairgoers on the grounds on a daily basis.

"In 2019, we averaged 103,000 people a day,” Waffner said. “Our biggest day was 147,000 and change. That snarls traffic, it makes nobody happy. If we can bring that daily average down to 90,000, it’s still a wonderful fair over 18 days. Still means 1.5-1.6 million people."