Leaders in Kansas City, St. Louis and the state of Kansas urged people who partied close together at Lake of the Ozarks over the Memorial Day weekend to self-quarantine for two weeks amid fears that the gatherings documented in social media postings will lead to a resurgence of the coronavirus.
Big crowds were reported at swimming pools, bars and restaurants at the central Missouri lake, which draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Video and photos posted on social media showed people without masks partying and swimming together in close proximity, seemingly ignoring guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and from the state, to keep at least two metres apart. At least some of the images showed people in the Anderson Hollow Cove area of the man-made lake that’s been nicknamed “Party Cove.”
It wasn’t clear whether any businesses or people would face reprimand. An order from the state health director leaves it up to local and state health officials to enforce physical distancing. Phone and email messages left Tuesday with the state health department and Camden County’s health administrator were not immediately returned. A spokesperson for Republican Gov. Mike Parson declined immediate comment and said he would address the issue in his afternoon news conference.
Morgan County Health Administrator Shawn Brantley said the local ordinance that gave his office enforcement authority was allowed to expire April 30 because of the low incidence of infections in his county. But Brantley said his office has worked to keep businesses “informed of the current guidelines and orders from the very beginning of this situation.”
St. Louis County Executive Sam Page asked the county’s health department to issue a travel advisory, citing concerns raised by residents and employers just as the county was beginning to reopen after weeks of closure.
“This reckless behaviour endangers countless people and risks setting us back substantially from the progress we have made in slowing the spread of COVID-19,” Page, a Democrat, said in a statement late Monday. “I encourage everyone to follow the Department of Public Health advisory to determine a safe path forward in the workplace.”
St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, both Democrats, took to Twitter to express their disappointment with the close-together crowds at the lake, which draws significantly from the metropolitan areas on both sides of the state, as well as from neighbouring states, including Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas and Iowa.
As a Missourian, I was disappointed to see the scenes this weekend at the lake. As mayor of Kansas City, I am focused on doing all we can to keep people safe here, including guidance to Kansas Citians here and elsewhere to maintain social distancing, avoid crowds, and to be smart <a href=”https://t.co/oCUrmJIyhR”>https://t.co/oCUrmJIyhR</a>
“If you were part of a group that didn’t socially distance or wear masks, please, for the health of your family, coworkers and friends, stay home for the next 14 days,” Krewson wrote in one tweet. In another she called the scenes from the lake “deeply disturbing.”
Kansas City Health Director Rex Archer echoed Krewson’s call for a 14-day self-quarantine for anyone who failed to practice social distancing at the lake, as did the Kansas health department.
WATCH | Americans ignore physical distancing advice over Memorial Day weekend:
Parson allowed businesses and attractions to reopen May 4, but the state order requires two-metre social distancing through at least the end of May. St. Louis and St. Louis County are just now phasing in reopening because COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, was so devastating there. More than half of Missouri’s 12,168 confirmed cases have occurred in those locations, along with more than two-thirds of the state’s 685 deaths.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in a few weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Director Randall Williams said in a statement that close contact, even in the outdoors, can lead to more infections that young people can bring home, creating a potential “long-lasting and tragic impact” if they infect vulnerable people.