Ask the experts: Will your family attend the NC State Fair? Go inside the exhibit halls?

·3 min read

North Carolina State Fair officials are encouraging fairgoers to wear masks and strongly recommending that they be vaccinated.

But they also did something else interesting. They suggested that families take time to assess the situation carefully — their vaccination or health status plus the most up-to-date data on infections in the state — and then decide if attending the fair this year is the right decision for them.

Thinking along those lines, we asked a group of doctors how they feel about attending the fair.

Within our group are longtime fair attendees and those who have never been (but want to go).

The experts we spoke to are Dr. Cameron R. Wolfe, an infectious disease specialist at Duke University School of Medicine; Dr. David Alain Wohl, a professor at the Institute of Global Health and Infectious Diseases at UNC-Chapel Hill; Dr. Anita Skariah, a UNC Health internist and pediatrician; and Dr. Amir Barzin, professor and director of UNC Family Medicine Center.

Attending the NC State Fair this year

Do you (or children/family members) plan to attend outdoor activities at the NC State Fair this year?

Wolfe: He said his family will attend the fair this year, and they plan to wear masks. “We also plan to go on a different (weekday) day, not our usual crowded weekend.”

Skariah: “We have never attended the NC State Fair but would be comfortable attending outdoor activities as long as we are spread out some from other people. It can be an enjoyable family activity outside, being mindful of our surroundings.”

Wohl: “We don’t. I’m the type of Chapel Hill person who looks at driving to Raleigh less like a trip and more like a journey.”

Barzin: “This year might be difficult. We have two small children who are not at the age where fair activities get them excited. We would be going to support the food vendors that work really hard (and put out some delicious food!). Agree that we would be doing this in outdoor spaces only. Since we will be outdoors and moving around to avoid densely packed areas with people that we do not know, I do not think I would take many more special precautions.”

The scene at the North Carolina State Fair in 2010, a year that saw the fair’s highest attendance records.
The scene at the North Carolina State Fair in 2010, a year that saw the fair’s highest attendance records.

Would you (or children/family members) feel comfortable going inside any of the education or exhibition buildings at the Fair?

Wolfe: “Not sure. It depends how they are set up, and whether people are masked.”

Skariah: “If we were to attend exhibits, we would use the same precautions for going into stores. We would stay masked, frequently use hand sanitizer and maintain some distance away from others. We just need to be a little more aware of our surroundings in larger crowds, even outdoors.”

Wohl: “Inside? Like with other people? Unlikely unless a small number of folks in a big area and we saw strong mask wearing (bandana covering mouth only does not count).”

Barzin: “Since our small children are not vaccinated, I do not think that they would do well an in enclosed environment that is densely populated. We would probably skip the indoor activities. I am sure that the fair team is doing everything possible to keep the venue safe and accessible. They do have a lot of advantages with a large space that can circulate air.”

Clockwise: Dr. David Cameron Wolfe, an infectious disease specialist at Duke University School of Medicine; Dr. Anita Skariah, a UNC Health internist and pediatrician; Dr. Amir Barzin, professor and director of UNC Family Medicine Center; and Dr. David Alain Wohl, a professor at the Institute of Global Health and Infectious Diseases at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Clockwise: Dr. David Cameron Wolfe, an infectious disease specialist at Duke University School of Medicine; Dr. Anita Skariah, a UNC Health internist and pediatrician; Dr. Amir Barzin, professor and director of UNC Family Medicine Center; and Dr. David Alain Wohl, a professor at the Institute of Global Health and Infectious Diseases at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Safety rules at the fair

Are there any safety measures that fair officials should employ OR that you would recommend?

Wolfe: “Distancing, ventilation, masking. And I say that assuming they’re not going to check vaccination status, which would be the other thing indoor venues should consider doing for safety.”

Skariah: “I would recommend with such large crowds, staying masked even outdoors just as an extra precaution. If you are going to enjoy the culinary delights, eat outside, use hand sanitizer, and keep distance from others especially while eating.”

Wohl: “I’m a huge fan of outdoor activities in general and especially during this pandemic. Keep it all outside.”

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