Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks packed amid COVID-19 pandemic

May 24, 2020 GMT

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic didn’t stop people from packing the central Missouri vacation hot spot of the Lake of the Ozarks for the Memorial Day holiday weekend, despite state social distancing orders.

Crowds flooded some bars and restaurants at the Lake of the Ozarks, which attracts Missouri residents, as well as people in surrounding states, including Illinois, Kansas, Arkansas and Iowa.

One video posted on social media shows a crammed pool where people lounged close together without masks.

Camden County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Chris Twitchell on Sunday said the typically crowded resort region has been even busier than normal this year. He said people with second houses on the lake moved in a few months ago to quarantine there, plus Memorial Day vacationers too worried to travel by airplane flocked to the mid-Missouri region instead.

“Our normal holiday weekend without all this COVID is ridiculously crazy,” Twitchell said. “So add COVID to it and all the people influxing down here to get away from everywhere else, (and) it just adds more to it. It’s a perfect storm.”

Missouri’s statewide stay-at-home order expired earlier this month, but an order from the state health director requires 6-foot social distancing until at least the end of May.

The order leaves it up to local and state health officials to enforce social distancing.

It’s unclear what steps Lake of the Ozarks-area health officials are taking to enforce that order. Associated Press requests for comment left with local health departments were not immediately returned Sunday.

Twitchell said the Camden County Sheriff’s Department is struggling to keep up with an increase of reported crime because of the surge of people. He said there’s no way the department has enough deputies to enforce social distancing on top of that.

“We’ve had such an influx of people down here at the lake, we’re just overwhelmed,” he said.

Since the pandemic first hit Missouri, the state health department has reported 38 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Camden County and four in Miller County, which cover some of the Lake of the Ozarks area.

In total, the health department reported that the virus has sickened at least 11,988 people, up 236 cases compared to what was reported Saturday. The confirmed death toll is 681, up from 676 reported deaths Saturday.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.