JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – 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 that 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 6 feet (2 meters) 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 appeared unlikely any businesses or individual would face reprimand. Although Missouri’s social distancing order gives enforcement authority to both the state and local health departments, Republican Gov. Mike Parson said enforcement responsibility lies with the local departments.
“I’m not going to send the National Guard, I am not going to send the Highway Patrol to monitor this,” Parson said at a news conference, where he expressed disappointment for the disregard for social distancing at the lake.
The incidents took place mostly in Osage and Camden counties. Osage County has had so few coronavirus cases that an ordinance allowing for enforcement lapsed last month, Health Administrator Shawn Brantley said. Camden County's health director did not respond to an email message seeking comment.
“The problem is everybody’s going back home,” Parson said. “Everybody’s going back to different districts, different towns and everything, which kind of complicated the issue to say the least.”
St. Louis County Executive Sam Page asked his local health department to issue a travel advisory, saying the activity at the lake raised new concerns just as the county was beginning to reopen after weeks of closure.
“This reckless behavior 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.