INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — This summer's Indiana State Fair has been called off because of concerns over the coronavirus, organizers announced Thursday.
Indiana had about 24,000 people apply for unemployment benefits last week, which was fewer than in recent weeks but far more than it was getting before the coronavirus reached the state and led to the closure of nonessential businesses.
STATE FAIR CANCELED
The state fair had been scheduled for Aug. 7-23 and officials had hoped to hold it at the Indianapolis fairgrounds since the governor said he planned to lift most statewide coronavirus restrictions on July 4.
Fair officials, however, said preparing for the event requires coordination with hundreds of businesses and thousands of part-time workers.
“We simply can’t hold off any longer for the sake of the staff, vendors, exhibitors, entertainers, sponsors and partners,” organizers said on the fair’s website. “While we are not sure what August will look like, we have to make decisions based on what we know today.”
The fair drew nearly 879,000 visitors during last year’s 17-day run. State fairs have also been canceled in several other states, including Ohio and Minnesota.
The 4-H Livestock Show is a major event of the Indiana fair and organizers said they were working on plans for a modified show to be held in August.
About 240,000 Indiana residents received jobless aid for the week ending May 23, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics released Thursday. That is down from the peak of nearly 295,000 in early May just before statewide business and travel restrictions started being eased, but still more than 10 times the level of early March.
Indiana had the country’s fifth-highest unemployment rate for April, at 16.9%, which exceeded the national rate of 14.7%.
The state’s unemployment applications peaked at 139,000 a week in late March, up from a typical 3,000 before the virus arrived.
Gov. Eric Holcomb on Wednesday signed a 30-day extension of the state’s public health emergency until July 4, when he expects to lift most limits on businesses, large gatherings and entertainment activities.
Despite Holcomb’s plan, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced Thursday that it would host an IndyCar-NASCAR doubleheader on July 4 weekend without fans. Track officials said they had to make a decision with the races less than a month away and weren’t certain what crowd limits or other restrictions would remain in place then.
The Indy 500, which draws upward of 275,000 people as the world’s largest single-day sporting event, has been postponed by three months until to Aug. 23.
MORE VIRUS DEATHS
State heath officials on Thursday raised Indiana’s death toll from confirmed or presumed COVID-19 cases by 24.
The new deaths raised the state's overall COVID-19 death toll to 2,231, according to the Indiana State Department of Health. Most of the newly reported deaths occurred Tuesday or Wednesday, but others date back as far as May 2. Of the 24 new deaths, 20 were from confirmed cases of COVID-19 and four are presumed to have been caused by the disease.
Indiana has seen an apparent slowdown of coronavirus-related deaths, as May 25 was the last day for which as many as 20 coronavirus deaths were reported. Between early April and mid-May, more than 30 COVID-19 deaths were reported most days.
Indiana hospitals still had 371 COVID-19 patients in their intensive care units on Tuesday.