Public health reviews potential Labor Day options

By 
Casey S. Elliott
Wednesday, July 15, 2020
Decision makers

Public Health Director Sue Hansen (foreground) and Public Health Officer Dr. Megan Evans listen to plans put forth for Labor Day Weekend by the Jaycees and Beaverhead County Fair Board at a meeting last Friday. J.P. Plutt photo

Labor Day events organizers laid out plans for how they could continue to have a county fair, concert and rodeo during the coronavirus pandemic at a Friday public health board meeting.

The meeting was overshadowed by new COVID-19 cases in the county, and a continued climb in cases state- and nationwide.

Since the meeting, four additional positive cases were confirmed in the county, for a total of five active cases as of Tuesday.

Dillon Jaycees representatives presented plans for reduced capacity rodeo attendance, planning on selling only 1,500 tickets, with roped-off seating to separate groups of people for the event. Jason Schumacher said the organization typically hires security, and will ask people to leave for violating the rules. The Jaycees will screen all contestants for health issues and take temperatures at the gates. There would be hand-washing and sanitizing stations available, and disinfection and cleaning would take place after each performance. Spectators would be recommended to wear masks, and masks could be available as well.

There will be plexiglas shields between servers and customers for concessions, with those workers wearing masks and gloves.

“This is happening in other com munities,” Schumacher added, noting additional rodeos are occurring around the state. “I think it’s completely doable. We will make it as safe as possible for everybody.”

The concert would follow similar requirements, halving the number of tickets sold. The full capacity is estimated at 6,000 for the concerts, Schumacher said.

“My concern is the large number of people. Having attended concerts in the past, I’m extremely concerned about the alcohol, with all the college kids coming back, and all the people in the arena,” Public Health Director Sue Hansen said.

Jaycees representatives said even if they limited alcohol sales, people would still go downtown and obtain it that way. The Jaycees are not responsible for what people do outside its events.

“With alcohol sales, you can restrict it if you want to, but people will bring their own,” Undersheriff Bill Knox agreed. “Maybe that’s better for contact purposes, but it’s not going to reduce the drinking going on.”

No downtown businesses or city officials presented a plan for keeping the downtown area safe for visitors during Labor Day festivities.

The Jaycees did not present a parade plan, noting their focus is the rodeo and concert for this year.

Beaverhead County Fair Board officials outlined plans that mirrored how the fair held a roping event over the July 4 weekend – no overnight stays; contestants enter in one spot and exit another, with no mixing; few to no spectators; periodic cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces; having handwashing stations and sanitizer readily available and more. The fair board decided last week to cancel the carnival and open class and commercial exhibitors to cut down on congestion at the fairgrounds and the number of people (see story page 3).

The auction would go on, but would involve videos and pictures of the exhibitor and animal, displayed on large television screens in the barn or arena during the auction. Buyers would be spread out if they came, otherwise they could watch the auction online and call in to bid; the youth and parents could also watch online or in another area, spread out.

Ticket sales could mirror what the Jaycees do with the rodeo, though the plans have not been finalized.

Public health board members wondered how to contact trace that many people at any of the events. Jaycees and fair board members suggested grouping people by color-coded sections and having them provide contact information when they purchase a ticket, to make it easier to track down potential close contacts of a positive case.

The public health board made no decisions on any of the plans for Labor Day events. The next meeting is scheduled for Friday, July 17.