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Central States Fair preparations; a COVID spreader? Health official weighs in

Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 5:59 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - COVID cases in South Dakota have been on the rise in recent weeks, especially with tourism season holding steady.

But is the influx of people adding to the case count and is there a concern moving forward?

The 81st Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally has come and gone but not without concern from health officials across the country about the event adding to the national COVID surge.

“This virus simply spreads from human to human contact. And when you have a small town, Sturgis, where bike enthusiasts rightfully come and enjoy, unfortunately, we’re in a pandemic year,” said Dr. Shankar Kurra, Vice President of Medical Affairs for Monument Health. “The virus is invisible and it absolutely thrives when you have large gatherings, that’s why we always worry about any mass gathering event.”

The rally brought in hundreds of thousands of people from across the country but an upcoming smaller event still causes concern for health officials.

“The concern is still the same, even if they come from our surrounding counties, for the state fair, for instance, the virus, unfortunately, is very good at spreading when there is close contact people,” said Kurra.

The Central States Fair begins Friday and although there were restrictions in 2020, the fair will return to normal operations this year.

“You know a lot of the favorites are back we have a fantastic animal nursery set up here with exotic animals, stuff that we don’t see in South Dakota so it’s a great chance to bring your kids and grandkids and take a stroll through the animal nursery,” said Ron Jeffries, the general manager for the Central States Fair. “The German tents back, that’s always exciting they do a great job as is the bud light tent so we’ve got great stuff going on there.”

Even though things are becoming more normal, vendors are still taking precautions to try and keep people safe.

“Well, you can tell by the fact that the carnival comes a week early just to set up and clean that they are serious about taking care of people and sanitation,” said Jeffries. “They do a very good job at all their food stands and all the rides cleaning every night and every day before they open. We’ll have a good presentation for you.”

The fair board is expecting attendance to resemble 2018′s numbers and attributes that to the state’s higher vaccination rate.

“You know, South Dakota is one of the highest vaccinated stats and I think that is going to bode well for all activities, not just the central states fair but going back to school, sporting events, throughout everything.”

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