State Watch

Crowds flock to Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks over Memorial Day weekend

Scores of people flocked to the the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri over Memorial Day weekend, crowding into restaurants and pool resorts, according to videos shared on social media and local news reports.

The sight of massive crowds came as health officials stressed that people need to follow social distancing guidelines as states move forward with gradual reopenings. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn warned on Sunday that as people venture out during the holiday weekend, they must remember that the novel coronavirus is “not yet contained.” 

One video posted on Twitter on Saturday showed dozens of people packed into a pool resort at the vacation getaway, with no one appearing to follow social distancing guidelines. The footage, shared by an anchor for CNN affiliate KTVK in Arizona, quickly went viral, attracting more than 13,000 retweets as of Sunday afternoon. 

KSDK, an NBC affiliate in St. Louis, also shared photos showing dozens of people crammed into an outdoor patio of a restaurant in the area. One of the pictures showed a sign on a balcony urging individuals to practice social distancing. No one appeared to be following the request. 

Other clips shared on social media depicted similar scenes at the reservoir.

Backwater Jack’s, an Osage Beach bar, advertised a “Zero Ducks Given Pool Party” on Facebook on Saturday, with about 400 people saying they attended on the platform.

An event organizer said on the restaurant’s page that “the venue has worked with and taken the advice of government officials and management teams and will be following social distancing guidelines.” Video shared on social media showed that people weren’t observing distancing protocols while on the premises, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch first noted.

Jodi Akins, who visited the establishment, told CNN that staff members were administering temperature checks and giving out hand sanitizer.

The Lake of the Ozarks is a common Memorial Day weekend and summer vacation destination. Many businesses forced to close due to the coronavirus pandemic prepared for an increase in activity as the holiday neared, The Kansas City Star reported

Missouri’s stay-at-home order expired on May 3, and Gov. Mike Parson (R) allowed some nonessential businesses to reopen as long as they followed social distancing guidelines. Earlier this month, the state released guidelines requiring restaurants to adhere to social distancing guidelines and other precautionary public health measures if they offer dine-in services. 

The Star noted on Saturday that a steady current of boats was seen on the water. Kylee Howard, a dock manager for Paradise Restaurant and Bar, told the Star that some docks would be implementing precautions to reduce crowding and maintain physical distancing. 

But videos of the areas where social distancing was not being practiced prompted outrage from commentators on social media. Meghan McCain, a co-host on ABC’s “The View,” tweeted, “I don’t even know what to say anymore.” 

“My god,” CNN anchor S.E. Cupp tweeted, linking to a video of the crowd at a pool resort. 

The Camden County Sheriff’s Department told KSDK that based on the photos it had seen, it did not appear social distancing was being practiced. But it noted that there are no penalties to enforce because there are no orders legally mandating the practice. 

White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx on Sunday addressed the need for social distancing after being asked about photos of crowds at beaches and other public venues during the holiday weekend.

“We’ve made it clear that there’s asymptomatic spread,” she said. “So we really want to be clear all the time that social distancing is absolutely critical. And if you can’t social distance and you’re outside, you must wear a mask.”

Missouri has reported more than 11,900 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and roughly 680 deaths caused by it. 

Tags Coronavirus Meghan McCain

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