Washington State Fair opens Friday with outdoor mask requirement

PUYALLUP, Wash. — When the Washington State Fair opens Friday in Puyallup, private security guards will be tasked with enforcing a mask mandate, both indoors and outdoors.

Earlier this week, facing a surge of COVID-19 cases driven by the more contagious delta variant, Pierce County’s health officer issued the mask directive for the fair.

“This was a mandate. And we were basically told if we wanted to open our gates, we had to mask up outdoors,” said Stacy Van Horne, spokesperson for the fair.

Van Horne said private security guards will enforce the mask mandate as best they can, which will not apply when people are eating.

The reason for the rule can be found right up the hill at MultiCare’s Good Samaritan Hospital.

The emergency room is so busy with COVID-19 patients that there’s now a tent outside to expand the waiting area.

“We would prefer the fair would not happen right now,” said MultiCare Chief Physician Officer Dr. David Carlson.

Carlson told KIRO 7 that MultiCare’s hospitals now have twice as many COVID-19 patients as last winter.

Nearly 98% are unvaccinated.

“If everyone who is eligible had been vaccinated, instead of having nearly 300 people in the hospital, we would have closer to 12,” Carlson said.

MultiCare reported injuries and regular medical calls from the fair will put too much stress on Good Sam, and that doesn’t count any fair-related COVID-19 outbreaks that might take a couple of weeks to show up.

Leaders at the Washington State Fair pointed to hand-washing stations on the grounds and said they have fewer vendors to allow more space.

They also said other fairs around the country have not become super spreaders.

“We’re just going to continue to do it absolutely as safely as possible,” Van Horne said.