Wake County issues health guidance for NC State Fair vendors: Here's why masks aren't being required

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Food vendors are getting their booths ready for the North Carolina State Fair, which opens Thursday.

Fair officials told ABC11 it's up to each vendor and business to determine their protocols and that they've been reminded to follow CDC and DHHS guidance when it comes to COVID-19.

Tuesday morning, the Wake County Health Department will inspect food booths.

Wake County shared guidance for vendors, which includes encouraging staff to wear cloth face coverings if they can't stand six feet apart, providing hand sanitizer or handwashing stations at their vendor space, frequently disinfecting high-touch surfaces like cashier counters and tables, providing single-use condiments if possible and avoid touching their faces and covering their coughs and sneezes.

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Vendors are asked to administer health screenings and/or temperature checks prior to shifts. Vendors are also asked to limit contact and allow for social distancing by using signs, tape marks or other visual cues to indicate where people can stand in line.

Another suggestion is to minimize handling cash, credit cards or mobile devices when possible and moving payment terminals or credit card readers away from the cashier, if possible.

While masks are encouraged, there is no mask mandate at the state fair, inside or outside.

Vendors are not required to wear masks. Fair officials say it comes down to enforcement and that it's unrealistic to enforce a vendor mask mandate across more than 200 vendors, adding they want to be realistic with policies.

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Andrea Millington, of the Cool Runnings Jamaican booth, talked to ABC11 about some of the ways they will focus on safety.

"We have our sanitizing station right outside of our booth and typically we just wipe," Millington said. "Every time somebody touches or whatever, we'll wipe. So it's a huge effort and constantly, constantly washing our hands."

Cool Runnings' Jamaican Jerk BBQ Sliders with Tropical Slaw won the media's choice for best new food at the fair Monday.

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The Arepa Loca booth has all types of arepas, such as with pulled pork. While vendors aren't required to wear masks, Arepa Loca workers will.

"As you can see, we are being cautious, wearing our masks," said Pedro Garcia, of Arepa Loca. "We are fully vaccinated, but all the people, we just want to be protected and feel protected as well."

Millington said their employees will also wear masks.

"We have our screens up and everything is contactless and we wear masks, period, with food and everything," Millington said.

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said there's 345 acres at the fairground so they're spreading out vendors more.

"We have thought through this so many times that exposure to COVID is a time-related exposure," Commissioner Troxler said. "So we think that people will be fine by trying to social distance themselves in lines and they won't be in front of food vendors, we don't think, long enough to get exposed. It's no different than going any other business, any other fast food. It'll be the same as it is in the real world here at the state fair."

"The good news is the numbers of COVID are trending downward," Commissioner Troxler said. "So, we've spread out as much as we can. We even put bipolar air filtration in our interior buildings to provide safer indoor air quality. But what we're asking people to do is take self-responsibility. We're encouraging people to wear a mask indoors or in the tents or any place that they can't be six feet away from other people."

More on fair health and safety guidance here.

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