USA

Missouri health officials call for self-quarantine of partiers at Lake of the Ozarks

Images of a jam-packed pool party at Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri over the Memorial Day weekend prompted St. Louis County to issue a travel advisory and the Kansas City health director to call for self-quarantine of the revelers.

The advisory by the St. Louis County Department of Public Health cited news reports of large crowds at Lake of the Ozarks, where hundreds were filmed squeezed closely together amid the coronavirus epidemic.

"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,” County Executive Dr. Sam Page said in a statement.

The health department in its travel advisory expressed concern that people from the St. Louis area were at Lake of the Ozarks over the weekend. "Any person who has travelled and engaged in this behavior should self-quarantine for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result for COVID-19," the advisory said.

It also says that employers are already being asked to screen workers for health risks, and they should also ask if workers about their recent travel. The Lake of the Ozarks region is about 150 miles west of downtown St. Louis.

Kansas City, Missouri, health department director Dr. Rex Archer also tweeted his dismay. The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can be spread by those who show no symptoms, but when others get it the virus can have tragic consequences, the state health director said in a Memorial Day warning.

"Anyone who didn’t practice CDC, DHSS, and KCMO Health Department social distancing guidance should self quarantine for 14 days if they have any compassion for others," Archer wrote alongside a video of partying at Lake of the Ozarks.

The bar owner where the pool party occurred had told NBC affiliate KSHB of Kansas City that they would try not to let large groups gather and would try to enforce social distancing, but "we don't know who's in groups, who's in families, we expect them to do that on their own."

One person who attended the Saturday bash told the station that guests' temperatures were checked and there was sanitizer on hand. "If you’re worried about getting sick, obviously, or you want to distance yourself, it’s pretty much to each their own,” Jodi Akins said.

Akins was identified as being from Blue Springs, Missouri, near Kansas City.

The Camden County sheriff said in a statement Monday that it was a "record weekend" at Lake of the Ozarks, but a lack of social distancing is not a crime and his department had no authority to enforce it. Public health violations are up to health authorities, he said.

"We expect residents and visitors alike to exhibit personal responsibility at the lake," Sheriff Tony Helms said in a statement.

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can be spread in crowds, and health experts have stressed that people should keep their distance from others in order to slow its spread.

As of Monday, there have been more than 12,100 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Missouri with 685 deaths attributed to the disease, according to the state health department's website.

Kansas City, Missouri, had 962 confirmed cases and 22 deaths due to COVID-19, according to the city's website.

St. Louis County and the city of the same name are at the top of lists when it comes to total cases and deaths in the state. There have been 4,455 cases of COVID-19 with 386 deaths in St. Louis County, and 1,739 cases with 107 deaths in the city.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson tweeted that many people enjoyed the Memorial Day weekend responsibly, but "too many did not," and she noted that the virus can be spread by those who do not show any symptoms. She asked that anyone who did not socially distance or wear masks to stay home for 14 days.

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