The latest counts of cases and deaths came minutes after Minnesota State Fair officials announced the 2020 Great Minnesota Get-Together could not go on because of the potential public health risk from the disease.
"We all love the fair and that's exactly why we can't have a fair this year,” Minnesota State Fair General Manager Jerry Hammer said.
The fair has been canceled before, most recently in 1946 because of a polio epidemic. This year, state health leaders have worried over the prospect of hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans packed in at the fair amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
State officials had expressed skepticism about holding the 12-day event, which more than 2 million people attended last year. In April, Gov. Tim Walz said he had a hard time seeing the fair operating this year.
“I wouldn’t want to make a definitive call. But I also don’t want to give any false hope on this. I think it would be very difficult to see a State Fair operating,” he said. “I don’t know how you social distance in there. I mean one of the greatest parts of the State Fair is it’s super crowded.”
State Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm sounded equally pessimistic on Thursday. Her agency, she said, didn’t make a recommendation but did lay out the risks to fair officials.
Fair officials had been telling vendors and participants that they expected to make a final decision far in advance to allow food stands, attractions and exhibitors enough time to plan appropriately.
On Friday, Hammer said the board had heard feedback from fair fans along the lines of let the healthy people go. “That's not who we are and that's not what we do,” he said. “It's got to be accessible to everybody. And a significant number of folks have some sort of health risk, some sort of compromised health.”