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Washington outdoor mask mandate impacts Spokane County Fair starting Monday

The fair announced it will require visitors to follow Washington's mask mandates indoors and outdoors.

SPOKANE, Wash. — The Spokane County Interstate Fair is pressing ahead for its 70th year, and organizers are asking visitors to follow Washington COVID-19 guidelines and wear a mask while indoors and outdoors starting Monday. 

Fair leaders made the change after Governor Jay Inslee made an announcement requiring events with 500 or more people to have masks. The mandate begins on Monday, Sept. 13, which means it will not apply to the first weekend of the fair. 

The fair began on Friday and will run until the Sept. 19.  Event organizers have been working in coordination with the Washington State Department of Health and the Spokane Regional Health District to implement COVID-19 guidelines and provide a safe and clean environment for visitors. 

Exceptions to the mask requirements include people who are eating or drinking, those communicating with a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, and when it’s necessary to remove a mask to confirm someone’s identity. 

In addition to wearing masks, visitors who don't feel well are being asked to stay way and follow isolation guidelines. They are also suggesting people avoid busier weekends and try to stop by the fair on slower weekdays.

Although outdoor events are generally considered to be lower risk for COVID-19 transmission, five different outdoor superspreader events infected more than 500 people at concerts, fairs and rodeos across Washington, including an outbreak at the Watershed Music Festival, according to Washington State Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah.  

Currently, there are at least 70 cases of COVID-19 that can be traced back to the Grant County Fair in August. The number is relatively small since over 72,000 people went to that event but the issue lies in whether those people ended up in already overwhelmed Washington hospitals. 

Washington state's hospitalization rates are at the highest level ever during the pandemic, according to state data. The Washington State Department of Health (DOH)  is encouraging hospitals to "limit and curtail elective procedures" in order to maintain enough capacity.