This past week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their recommendations to provide more detailed precautions for livestock shows. Many state fairs across the country have been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, many states have enabled 4-H and FFA students to continue to their passion by continuing livestock shows and competitions. This allows young people to continue to do what they love while giving them something to work towards during the summer.
The CDC has informed the people of the following:
- Events that bring together people and animals, such as fairs and agricultural shows, can increase the spread of COVID-19 among people and animals.
- The risk of animal-to-person spread is considered to be low.
- However, fair and agricultural show organizers should consider the potential for spread from person-to-person, person-to-animal, and possibly animal-to-animal.
- If people will be interacting with animals at an event, take precautions to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Fairs and agricultural shows pose unique One Health risks because they bring together crowds of people and animals with opportunities for close contact among them and mixing of different animals from different places. Events like these can contribute to the spread of SARS-CoV-2 from person to person but may also pose a risk of infection to certain types of animals.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, show organizers should follow CDC’s Considerations for Events and Gatherings when deciding whether to hold, postpone, or cancel a fair, agricultural show, or other event where animals may be exhibited. Planners should also act in accordance with state and local jurisdictional guidance with regards to continuing operations at fair grounds or agricultural shows.
Some animals have been reported to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 worldwide, including pet cats and dogs in the United States. To date, there have been no reports of horses, cows, pigs, chickens, or ducks testing positive for SARS-COV-2. More studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by COVID-19.
Livestock and horse shows — The CDC asks state fairs to consider the following steps:
- Split classes to limit the number of animals in the show ring.
- Cattle, horse, sheep, and goat shows naturally lend to social distancing when on the walk; adapt spacing to maintain distance between participants.
- Limit the number of people and/or animals in a ring to ensure that at least 6 feet is kept between an animal and its handler and other people and animals including judges. The number of exhibitors and animals that can safely fit in a show ring or exhibit area may limit the number of animals that can be shown at one time.
- Provide separate entry and exit points for visitors so they do not need to pass close together while coming into and going out of the ring.
- Stagger activities in washing and grooming areas, or other shared spaces, so that animals from different farms or households do not interact unnecessarily and so that people can maintain a distance of at least 6 feet apart from each other.
- Stagger animal move-in/move-out times to reduce contact between people and animals.
- Consider a “show-and-go” with animals stalled at a trailer and leaving immediately after the show if this will not compromise animal welfare, for example, because of weather conditions such as high temperature and humidity.
For more information including precautions for animals and maintaining healthy environments in animal interaction areas, check out the CDC livestock recommendation website.