JONESBORO — After having to cancel the Northeast Arkansas District Fair in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the fair board planned to make this year’s event bigger than normal. Carnival events are planned for two weekends this year.

After all, new infections had fallen drastically this spring and it looked like the pandemic was coming to an end.

But with this newest wave of infections, especially among younger residents, this year’s fair is less certain than originally thought, fair manager Mitch Johnson said. However, he also noted the fair is still two months away.

“Right now, we’re still going forward with our planning and implementing things to get everything in place when it comes time to open,” Johnson told The Sun. “We’re aware of the situation. We hope that in the 60 days that we’ve got before we open there might have some calming down.”

After Craighead County had 212 new cases in June and only 102 active cases, the county added another 272 cases and had 291 active cases by July 15. On Wednesday of this week, the county had 79 new cases and by Friday, the number of active cases exceeded 500. The death toll rose Thursday to 188.

Because of the increase in cases, some hospitals have announced new visitation restrictions.

NEA Baptist said only one person may accompany a patient to the emergency department or clinic. Patients admitted to the hospital and outpatients may have no more than two visitors.

Only one essential caregiver per day may visit COVID-positive patients, between 3 p.m.-7 p.m., and visitors must check in at the nursing station before visiting.

All visitors must be 12 years or older.

All visitors must:

• Wear a mask inside the facility.

• Pass screening upon entering.

• Follow all infection prevention policies and procedures.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in Little Rock also announced it will change its visitation policy to limit patients to one visitor per day, effective Monday. Dr. Matt Steppe, UAMS CEO, said the change is required to protect patients, staff and visitors.

“We have already had one patient infected with COVID by a visitor,” Steppe said in a news release. “With the workforce shortage hospitals are facing now, we must minimize the risk of infection for our medical staff and care teams.”

UAMS is complying with “No Patient Left Behind” Act to ensure patients continue to have the support they need, particularly for patients with disabilities and elderly patients who may have dementia or difficulty seeing or hearing. UAMS is also using digital visitation to help patients stay connected with loved ones virtually.

This year’s NEA District Fair will introduce a new midway layout for the carnival, which will open on Sept. 23, Johnson said. PBJ Happy Days Shows of Marion will provide the carnival rides this year. The rest of the fair’s activities will begin on Sept. 27 and will run through Oct. 2.

“So we’ll actually have nine days of carnival and six days of fair,” Johnson said.

Regardless of the virus circumstances, the fair will follow Arkansas Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, Johnson said.

For more information on the fair, log on to the fair’s website at: