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Outdoor mask mandate a challenge for Oregon State Fair

The fair is back on this year after being canceled in 2020. Its first few days have been a real test for the state's new outdoor mask mandate for crowded places.

SALEM, Ore. — The Oregon State Fair was a popular place on opening weekend. But walking through the crowd, a visitor could see the state's outdoor mask mandate was not so popular. On Sunday afternoon, it appeared that about half of the crowd were ignoring it.

That included Kayla Sattler, there with a couple of unmasked friends.

“I am fully vaccinated, why should I need a mask? I did my part, I got vaccinated. I should get to choose whether I wear a mask or not," Sattler said.

Nearby, signs pointed out a coronavirus vaccine clinic happening inside Cascade Hall. Unlike the mask mandate, vaccinations were going smoothly. Health care workers have been vaccinating 50 to 60 people a day since Friday.

RELATED: COVID vaccine offered at Oregon State Fair, Hood to Coast relay

Michael and Breeanna Robinette said vaccine mandates for employees got them in.

"I work for the hospital so it became a mandate, so from there it was a matter of me getting the shot or our livelihood, so (the vaccine) is what I chose," Michael said.

"I was not mandated, but I was here to support him and go ahead and get it," Breeanna said. "Better safe than sorry."

Josh Franke is Chief Project Officer for Salem Health’s vaccine program, which is working with Oregon Health Authority and the state fair to operate the clinic.

Franke said the targeted vaccine mandate is in part driving an uptick in vaccinations. "But also people are seeing in the news that this is not going away, and ultimately the only way for us to get out of this is to get vaccinated," Franke said.

RELATED: Outdoor mask mandate now in effect across Oregon

Franke said all three vaccine brands are available at the clinic, and he is glad to see people getting them.

"The good thing for people to remember is that you're not fully vaccinated until two weeks after your final dose, so with Johnson & Johnson that's great because two weeks from today you're full vaccinated," Franke said.

Back outside, the music is playing, and people are having fun. But it is no fun for fair organizers trying to get people to mask up. Fair staff tell attendees about it coming in, offer masks to those without them, and remind people again, when they can, to mask up.

"But it really takes people doing the right thing if they want this fair to continue," said Oregon State Fair spokesperson Dave Thompson. "The best version of this classic American state fair is only possible with your help. Please, while you're at the Oregon State Fair, please wear your mask."

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