Mahoney supports plans to hold 25th annual Fargo Blues Festival this weekend


FARGO, N.D. (AP) — The mayor of the city that was once the hot spot for the coronavirus in North Dakota is supporting an annual outdoor music festival set to go on as planned this weekend.

The 25th Fargo Blues Festival is scheduled Friday and Saturday at Newman Outdoor Field, where officials have had plenty of preventative practice by hosting home baseball games for both the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks and Winnipeg Goldeyes of the American Association.

Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney, a member of a task force that was assembled in May when North Dakota’s largest city saw a spike in virus cases, is supporting the show. He cites statistics showing that Cass County, which includes Fargo, has held steady with a daily positive rate of 2% for 60 days.

“I hope people wear masks and social distance,” Mahoney said. “But we’ve been having some events that have more people and we have not seen the surge.”

Festival organizers have been working with city health officials and RedHawks staff on precautions, said Matt Rau, general manager for the Fargo baseball club. Rau said his staff has passed on its expertise from a month’s worth of games, although the music festival faces an added challenge because the stage is in the outfield and most people will be sitting in lawn chairs.

Rau said it’s “a little bit different” when you don’t have people in the permanent seats that RedHawks employees have marked off for social distancing.

“It becomes imperative for people to show personal responsibility,” Rau said. “There will be numerous announcements on the video board and security will be there asking people to social distance. The precautions are in place from an operational perspective, but it’s really up to individuals to practice those things.”

Concert organizer Dan Bredell could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, state health officials confirmed 124 new COVID-19 infections on Wednesday and one additional death. Cass County leads the state with 2,958 positive tests, although the county ranks 29th in cases recorded in the last two weeks, according to The COVID Tracking Project.

Mahoney said increased testing and contact tracing used to identify and isolate groups of those who may be infected has helped the county get a handle on the virus.

The state now has 1,112 active cases, up one from the previous high set on Tuesday. Those cases have soared in the past month and coincides with the reopening of the state’s economy and increased testing.

Burleigh and Morton counties have taken over as the state’s hot spot for the virus in recent weeks. Officials said 41 of the new cases were in Burleigh County and five were in neighboring Morton County, which includes the Bismarck-Mandan metro area.