'Folks are going to die': Vacationers flocking to Missouri's Lake of Ozarks flout social distancing rules

'Folks are going to die': Vacationers flocking to Missouri's Lake of Ozarks flout social distancing rules
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Crowds packed Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks Saturday, kickstarting a dangerous Memorial Day weekend during the coronavirus pandemic, and social media users definitely took notice. Lake of the Ozarks was trending Sunday morning with more than 15,000 tweets about Missourians and vacationers alike risking their lives to drink and party.

“Glad not to be at the Lake of the Ozarks this weekend,” St. Louis columnist Aisha Sultan tweeted Saturday night. “The lake will be there in the future. If you get Covid19, you might not be.”

Pictures of crowded dining and pool areas at Redhead Lakeside Grill and Yacht Club started flooding social media pages Saturday. Although one photo of the scene includes a sign reading "PLEASE PRACTICE SOCIAL DISTANCING 6 FT APART,” people weren’t exactly following the rules, and the restaurant didn’t appear to be enforcing the measures. A representative of the Camden County Sheriff’s Office told the local news station 5 On Your Side that because the state has no mandated social distancing order in place, deputies could not enforce Missouri guidelines regarding the practice.

The Missouri Department of Health is reporting 11,752 cases of COVID-19 in the state and 676 resulting deaths. Still, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson felt ending the state's stay-at-home order May 4 and prioritizing a return to business as usual before the Memorial Day holiday was the best course of action for his state.“I want to assure Missourians that we are prepared,” Parson said.

The end of the stay-at-home order also meant allowing restaurants to offer dining-in services, “provided that the limitations on social distancing and other precautionary public health measures [...] are properly adhered to.”

But as the Camden County Sheriff’s Office pointed out, the guidelines lack teeth without penalties attached to breaking the rules.

Even Parson’s plan to ramp up testing to 7,500 tests a day isn’t exactly leading to faith-inspiring results. He said in a news release Thursday: “We cannot fully recover economically without increasing our testing numbers. We have made great progress over the past month, but we must do more. The more testing we do, the more data and knowledge we have on the situation in Missouri, and the more confidence and reassurance we can give Missourians as we work through the recovery process.”

Missouri, however, has fudged testing numbers by at least 17,000 people, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Until Saturday, health officials had been combining results from tests for COVID-19 with results from antibody tests signaling past exposure to the virus, the newspaper reported.

Chris Prener, a St. Louis University sociologist, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the effect is that the “percentage of positive cases appears to have gone up.” “If it’s true that the percentage rate is higher, it means we are less further along in not just expanding testing but addressing the outbreak,” he said.

That doesn’t exactly inspire me to go out partying in Missouri, but to each her own.

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