TRUMBULL TOWNSHIP — The Ohio Department of Health has ruled that the Great Lakes Medieval Faire cannot open this year due to COVID-19, said Ashtabula County Health Commissioner Ray Saporito.
While a number of businesses have been allowed to reopen, some are still required to be closed. Fairs, festivals, and carnivals are among them, according to the Ohio Department of Health. The Ohio Department of Health issued an order on Tuesday, removing the expiration date of a number of orders.
"We have been told by the state health department ... that festivals are not permitted at this time," Saporito said. "So, at this point in time, after receiving that confirmation, once again, that they're not permitted, at this point, we can't approve the Great Lakes Medieval Faire."
If the order is changed later, things may change, Saporito said.
The Medieval Faire has stated on social media that it will be open starting today. This weekend is plague-themed, according to a schedule posted on its Facebook page.
The Medieval Faire's legal representation was informed that the opening was not approved, and the Health Department attempted to reach the faire's ownership, Saporito said.
The Ashtabula County Health Department has been in contact with the Great Lakes Medieval Faire for some time, Saporito said. One of the health department's inspectors was at the location as early as June, talking to officials.
"We made it very clear that no matter how they feel, no matter how we feel, in the end, it's going to be the director's order that determines whether that type of festival can take place or not," Saporito said.
The Great Lakes Medieval Faire posted on its website that steps were being taken to protect people from COVID-19.
Those steps include employees wearing masks and having their temperatures checked, sanitizing food and drink facilities, encouraging social distancing and encouraging patrons to wear masks, according to the website.
"The state health department and the Governor's office makes the final call," Saporito said. "We were pretty much dependent on them to make that call. We weren't going to say you can or cannot do it without the state telling us what the correct, allowable activities are in the state, and that's the bottom line."
If the Medieval Faire operates without Health Department approval, the department could seek an injunction, Saporito said.
An order requiring the Faire to close was going through the legal process on Friday, said Jay Becker, Ashtabula Health Department Administrator. A judge has to sign off on the order, Becker said.
"I don't know what the timing of that is going to be," he said.
The Health Department tried to give the Faire as much time as possible before making a decision.
"It wouldn't have been fair to them to say to them last week, 'Well, you can't operate,'" Saporito said. "We gave as much time as we could, and obviously, when we talked again with the state [health department] for the third time, they reconfirmed nothing has changed. ... We were trying to give as much opportunity as possible, as to whether they could open, and it's pretty clear no."
Saporito pointed out that the COVID-19 outbreak in Ohio has gotten worse in recent weeks.
"The trends are not going well in the state," he said. "[The Centers for Disease Control] has confirmed, without question, festivals and concerts are high risk. There's no way around that," he added later.
Officials from the Great Lakes Medieval Faire did not return repeated requests for comment.