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Iowa governor eases virus rules on bars, restaurants; State Fair canceled

Iowa governor eases virus rules on bars, restaurants; State Fair canceled
Gov. Kim Reynolds announces new reduced coronavirus restrictions at a press conference Wednesday, June 10. (Iowa Public Television screen grab)

DES MOINES (AP) — Iowa bars, restaurants, theaters and other businesses will be able to pack in more customers beginning Friday under a proclamation Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Wednesday that she said reflects a decline in the coronavirus pandemic.

Three weeks after Reynolds allowed such businesses to open with a 50% capacity limit, she ended the restrictions as long as establishments practice social distancing and ensure additional hygiene practices.

Swimming pools, senior centers and adult day care centers also may open if they follow public health guidance, Reynolds said.

“Results such as the consistent downward trends in positive cases and hospitalizations that were experienced for the last month allow us to confidently take additional steps forward further relaxing restrictions and reopening business in a measured and reasonable approach that’s driven by data,” she said.

The governor eased restrictions as state health data showed an increase of seven deaths and about 340 cases since Tuesday.

Reynolds said eliminating the 50% capacity restrictions will allow businesses the flexibility to adjust specific operations to best meet the needs of their customers and employees.

Also Wednesday, the Iowa State Fair Board voted 11-2 to cancel the fair, which typically caps an Iowa summer with an 11-day run in mid-August.

The fair is the biggest attraction in Iowa, usually drawing more than 1 million visitors who check out the butter cow, buy pork chops or countless other food typically skewered with a stick, and stroll through 445 acres of barns, carnival attractions and campgrounds.

Officials in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Indiana also have canceled their fairs, though state fairs are going ahead in some states, including Nebraska, South Dakota and Kansas.

Gary Slater, the State Fair manager and CEO, said the decision was necessary to protect the health of fairgoers. More than 22,600 Iowa residents have tested positive for the coronavirus and more than 630 have died.

“While the decision of the Iowa State Fair Board today will certainly come as a disappointment to many, the board determined that holding a fair in accordance with current health guidelines related to COVID-19 wasn’t feasible,” Slater said in a statement.

Slater said the board also was influenced by surveys that indicated the likelihood of much smaller attendance if the fair was held. Because most of the fair’s revenue comes from the annual event, Slater said the organization would need to reduce expenses.

The last time the fair was canceled was from 1942 to 1945, during World War II.

The fair board has already scheduled the 2021 Iowa State Fair for Aug. 12-22.