SANTA ROSA (KPIX) — Mass gatherings are allowed, now that the state has relaxed its COVID guidelines, but people at the Sonoma County Fair on Friday seemed unsure what to expect when the rules and the science itself are changing so rapidly.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the nature of COVID has changed due to the new Delta Variant, and with it, so has the guidance about wearing masks for the vaccinated.
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The tradition of the fair may have returned to Santa Rosa, but the mix of masked and unmasked people showed there are still varying levels of comfort in being in a crowd.
“There’s a different feeling for me,” said fairgoer David Betticrew, “because I’m vaccinated and I wear a mask when I should and I still socially distance. And, yeah, I’m ready to get out and do stuff.”
The fair opened Wednesday and CEO Becky Bartling says their policies were set even before the guidance from the CDC began changing due to the Delta Variant. There are Midway rides and food booths, but all 200 fair workers must be vaccinated and anyone entering any of the fairground buildings are required to mask up.
“We’re a county facility,” said Bartling, “and the county has mandated at any of the county buildings, that, regardless of vaccination status, you’re required to wear a mask.”
Most people abided by the rules, but back outside eating an enormous corndog, Steve Johnson said the changing guidelines are causing doubt in people, and he finds all the talk of masks and vaccines to be a bit too much to swallow.
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“How do you figure what’s normal nowadays and who to believe?” he said. “My belief is you get out there and you get subjected to all these germs and different things like that and that’s good for your immune system.”
The fair is smaller this time, to encourage social distancing, with popular attractions like horse racing and the flower show taking the year off. But even those, fairgoers like Jill Gilbert, who agreed with the new COVID restrictions, hoped they won’t lead to another prolonged shutdown.
“I give up,” she said. “I hope it’s pretty quick now, with the new regulations on all federal employees getting vaccinated and companies requiring it. So, I think we’ll get to our herd immunity sooner.”
And even though most will never get sick at all, Wanda Scriber thinks the politics of the pandemic have taken their toll on people’s relationships. She said it’s changed the way she sees some of her friends.
“I know some people that I always thought were pretty normal but they won’t get vaccinated,” she said, shaking her head.
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The Sonoma County Fair runs through August 8 and operates Wednesday through Sunday with the gates opening at Noon.
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