The North Carolina State Fair has been one of my absolute favorite local events that is close to campus as a Raleigh native. And while it’s exciting to see the event back in full swing this year after last year’s cancellation, we should recognize the extremely high risks the event may cause as we are still dealing with an abundance of COVID-19 cases in North Carolina.
There are currently over 2,000 hospitalized and over 3,000 new cases according to the NC Department of Health and Human Services, and just 65% of the adult population is fully vaccinated. While numbers are worse in different areas of the country, it is nothing to ignore, especially when attending considerably large outdoor events like the state fair.
As of Oct. 6, 79% of NC State undergraduate students are now vaccinated, which is a definite improvement from the beginning of the semester. However, there is still no vaccine mandate for the state fair and the website fails to mention any true concern for avoiding the spread of COVID-19.
It can be easy to become desensitized or stop looking at the severity of COVID-19 in North Carolina at this point, but the truth is that we are still very much in the middle of a pandemic that can abruptly impact all of our college experiences.
In 2019, the highest number of NC State fair attendance in one day was 136,448 people. We are all well aware of what high levels of COVID-19 cases can do to our college experience — and I am sure the majority of us do not want to go back to remote online classes.
According to The News & Observer, the day with the lowest attendance is projected to be the first Friday of the event on Oct.15. Choosing to attend on this day or a weekday may help avoid possible exposures and allow for more social distancing. Its article also states masks are highly encouraged but not diligently required, so we should all be aware of these alarmingly relaxed protocols.
Considering the event will be outside, masks will most likely not be worn by most attendees, making the risk of catching COVID-19 even higher in compact crowds or rides. In addition to this, we should remember the E. coli outbreak that was traced back to the petting zoos of the NC state fair in 2011.
This outbreak from the fair should serve as a prime example of why we as college students should either skip the event or be extremely cautious if we decide to attend. What happened with E. coli years ago and the very high number of potential attendees show how easily disease can spread in an environment like the state fair.
If students do go to the fair this year, they should take great precautions by skipping the petting zoo attractions, wearing their mask when in crowded areas and not sharing drinks or foods in order to avoid the possible spread of the virus.
Plus, we have been able to handle COVID-19 rather well so far on campus, so now is not the time to risk all of our efforts for an event that will be back next year. Especially as the fair runs from Oct. 14 through Oct. 24, we should be conscious of the fact that we will be returning to class and campus during that time where we could further spread the virus unintentionally.
If you are going to go to the fair, I recommend that you get tested before and after attendance. It’s the easiest way to ensure the safety of yourself and others.
Most students have already received an exposure email from NC State that recommends they get tested immediately. This makes professors have to find an alternative way of meeting online or even canceling class altogether. Therefore, we know the possibility of a surplus of these emails coming into our inboxes with the state fair coming up.
There is always next year to attend the fair as well, when the pandemic will hopefully be a worry of the past. Some local alternative activities are going to haunted houses, pumpkin patches or exploring nearby lakes such as Lake Raleigh and Lake Johnson. Another fun option is to attend live music events that are preferably outdoors where people are required to wear masks.
Honestly, I’m shocked the fair is happening at all this year with the state of the pandemic. However, we must act accordingly and think ahead to the consequences of our attendance. Also, it might be worth skipping the insane traffic that often blocks Hillsborough Street.
Like many students, I am so grateful to be back on campus feeling like a somewhat normal student again, so let’s not ruin it by throwing caution to the wind and pretending COVID-19 is long gone if we choose to attend the state fair this year.