Some Wisconsin State fairgoers mask up, others don't as COVID-19 cases surge

Posted at 6:12 PM, Aug 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-06 20:17:42-04

WEST ALLIS — COVID-19 cases are surging across the State of Wisconsin, the same week as the opening of the Wisconsin State Fair.

State Fair officials are implementing CDC (Centers for Disease Control) health guidelines, which include a recommendation to wear masks while indoors.

"I wore my mask today, because while I have been vaccinated, just the recent news [of increased COVID-19 cases], recommendations from the CDC, it just makes me feel more comfortable at an event with so many people,” said Jessica Bratcher, who was visiting the fair with her husband.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the state recorded 1,566 new coronavirus cases on Thursday. It marks the largest single-day jump in cases since January.

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Many people visiting the fair said the latest wave of infections hasn’t yet impacted their choices.

“Oh yes, I am comfortable not wearing a mask,” said Kong Chammavong, who was exploring the Exposition Center with his family. “We don’t know who has it, who doesn’t have it. You do wear a mask, it’s on you. You don’t wear a mask, it’s on you.”

Chammavong said he feels the Expo Center is large enough and not crowded enough to the point where he’d want to put on a mask.

Jean Maly, a seller in the Center, felt differently.

“Well there are so many people, especially in the afternoon when it gets really warm. Everybody comes indoors because it’s air conditioned in here,” said Maly, who wore a mask along with the rest of her staff at Callisters Christmas.

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Maly also said she’s not taking any risks of getting sick – her son’s wedding is next month, and she doesn't want to miss it.

Several vendors said they believe masking is bad for business.

“The customers haven’t been here for a year, so they’re coming back, which is nice. And I think they’re only going to do more damage if they [health officials] start this masking thing again,” said Tony Dell, a salesman at the Expo Center.

On Friday, several stalls remained empty within the Center.

In a statement, the Fair said “we are missing those who could not [join us] due to business reasons, including supply chain and labor shortages, as well as personal reasons...”

The statement also said the fair is “embracing new layout and programming opportunities to create a fresh fairgoer experience.”

Kathleen O’Leary, State Fair Park CEO, told TMJ4 News there are mask recommendations while you're inside any building on the fairgrounds.

“Our 200,000 square foot exposition center has a 30 foot ceiling, all brand-new air filtration. The way we program it, it really allows people to move,” said O’Leary.

She also said that they’re taking the fair day by day, and for now, there are no plans to altar any of their health guidelines.

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