Members of the Wayne County Board of Health were once again met with tough topics of discussion during their Zoom meeting held on June 24. With June coming to a close and nearly all local town celebrations and events being canceled or postponed this summer, the annual county fair event is still on the upcoming schedule.
“I’m not in favor of hundreds of people from other counties coming, I think it is a public health risk and unnecessary and I believed if the verbiage postponed was used for some of those events they wouldn’t lose their down payment money,” said Board of Health member Clayton Merritt. “I don’t know all the fine details though.”
“The fine details are they are going to run a fair, and they respect what we think but they are going to move forward and have the fair and they will do as much following of the guidance and cautions that they can,” said Public Health Administrator Shelley Bickel. “They are going to have events every night. It’s about money. I don’t know what else to do.”
“I agree with Shelley, I think we need to give our recommendation and do it in writing,” said Board of Health member Penny Fetters. “If there is an outbreak that is linked back to the fair, I think the blowback will come to public health. So I believe we need something in writing on our recommendations. I know it comes down to money and I get it, but I don’t think it is understood what it takes resource wise if there is an outbreak. The toll it would take.”
“It sounded like from reading the article, putting on the fair is about $150,000 is that correct?” asked Dr. Joel A. Wells. DO.
“Yes that’s my understandings and I have several different viewpoints on this as I was a former Fair Board President for a long time,” said Board of Health member Tom Swearingin. “I understand what they are talking about as far as the money. I get their point of view. From the Board of Health point of view, we have told everybody that reached out to us pretty much the same thing, that we do not recommend large gatherings like this. So that’s my second point of view and my third point of view is from the supervisor’s view. The Fair Board presents us with their budget and we give them their allocation every year, but we cannot tell them how to spend it. I’m torn in three different directions.”
“This is a risk decision and we don’t have any authority to tell people what to do and can just make recommendations,” Dr. Wells continued. “I do believe the Fair Board has a higher level of responsibility when they make these decisions as it is not just their health, it’s the health of others. As a [health] board we have a higher level of responsibility, so we advocate for things to happen or not to happen. The responsible thing is for the fair to not happen.”
“The money issue I will put in perspective too,” said Dr. Wells. “If this has a $150,000 price tag, and if one person gets sick from this fair and ends up in a hospital and in the ICU on a ventilator it will put $150,000 to shame. That will be a drop in the bucket. If we’re going to talk money I want to put that into perspective to the general public.”
“It’s my understanding they wouldn’t lose the $150,000 it would be around $59,000 to $60,000 so it’s even smaller numbers,” Fetters added. “I am not completely against the fair. I would be in favor of having the kid’s stuff. I just think the big events and camping are concerning. So I am not completely against it, I just think they need to think about what they are doing and do on a smaller scale.”
Fetters also advised she mentioned any fair advertisements the board puts out should include statements recommending older adults and anyone with serious underlying medical issues to stay home.
Bickel noted supplies are limited and the local public health office did not have an abundance of items or people to help enforce the guidelines for the event.
A motion was made stating the Wayne County Board of Health does not support any event that involves the gathering of large crowds where social distancing cannot be maintained where people are less than six-feet apart in such gatherings and facemasks, hand washing, etc. could not be enforced and this would include the Wayne County Fair event. The board voted unanimously in favor of the motion.