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Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Ohio County Fair Mystified that Large Gathering Caused Covid Outbreak

Posted By on Wed, Jul 29, 2020 at 10:59 AM

  • Counselman Collection/FlickrCC

“Isn’t the coronavirus a Mexican beer?”

These were the incredulous words of Mel Crawford after learning that last month’s Pickaway County Fair is thought to have infected 22 people with Covid-19, leading to at least one death.

“There’s no way a beer could do all that,” protests the event’s director. “Not even Michelob Ultra.”

The Pickaway County Health Department would beg to differ.

On June 20, the weeklong fair launched its 75th edition, offering residents a respite of delightful Americana. Kids squealed shoulder-to-shoulder on rides. Couples bought funnel cakes and snow cones from maskless vendors. Families crowded into barns to see the chemically-enhanced livestock.

What officials didn’t know was that a deadly pandemic had begun to assault the country five months earlier – and that it was wholly unrelated to beer. Covid’s death toll now approaches 150,000. But since the federal government downplayed virus, many were left unaware.

Word of the pandemic could only be gleaned through newspapers, television broadcasts, websites, radio shows, podcasts, and all other forms of communication. That wasn’t nearly enough to reach the majestic fields of Pickaway County, which sits due south of Columbus.

“I mean, why don’t they publicize these things?” asks Crawford. “We could have at least jacked up our liability insurance.”

The unforeseeable circumstances have now led county health officials to deem the fair a super-spreader event. They note that fair staff and vendors didn’t wear masks, and that condiments were set out for all to use, giving the virus a base camp to incubate and plot its offensive.

The health department further reports that hand sanitizer wasn’t used by ticket takers, bleachers were crowded, and social distancing limited. Though the department offered detailed safety plans prior to the event, fair staff shouldn’t be to blame, says Crawford. “We weren’t really listening. They should have talked louder.”

Von Cremeans disputes the Health Department’s findings. He’s the president of the Pickaway County Agricultural Society, which operates the event. “I don’t know how they can trace it back to the fair,” he told the Chillicothe Gazette.

That sentiment is echoed by Crawford. He contends the virus could just as easily been spread through “witchcraft,” since Jehovah’s Witnesses have been spotted in the area.

Besides, he adds, rumor has it the lone death was that of Mark Koivu, “who nobody even likes. He once borrowed Jack Slater’s bandsaw and didn’t return it for like three weeks.”

Crawford admits to hearing something about a virus in the months leading up to the fair, but a friend told him it could be “cured by drinking toilet bowl disinfectant or something like that.”

Though Ohio Governor Mike DeWine banned further large-scale fairs on Tuesday, Crawford says there are no plans to cancel the Pickaway fairground’s next event, the annual Gun-A-Palooza on August 22. The expo features men crammed into a barn for a day of free food, $1 beer, and gun raffles.

This time, however, there will be precautions. Attendees will be required to take a shot of Kaboom Bowl Blaster at the door. And if a Mexican beer distributor shows up, says Crawford, “We’ll show 'em we take our Second Amendment rights seriously.”

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