Harrowing images of Memorial Day revelers partying at the Lake of the Ozarks this past weekend depict a simmering human soup, a beer-soaked, sunburned bacchanal, in addition to what looks like very real coronavirus infection risk.
The Missouri vacation spot (the “lake” is actually a man-made reservoir) saw record numbers of largely maskless vacationers hanging out on boats and standing very close together at pool parties in big groups, flouting social-distancing rules that are still very much in place in the state. As a result of the crowded, chlorinated holiday, the St. Louis County Department of Public Health issued a travel advisory urging those who attended the event to quarantine themselves after possible exposure. “Large crowds at Lake of the Ozarks showed no efforts to follow social distancing practices essential to curbing the spread of the virus,” the health department said in a statement. “The Department of Public Health urges those who ignored protective practices to self-quarantine for 14 days or until testing negative for COVID-19.”
Missouri is currently in the first phase of its reopening, with businesses that have been closed for months starting to host patrons and reemploy workers again. Public officials expressed frustration that partygoers would risk exposing themselves or unknowingly spreading the coronavirus just as the state has flattened its virus curve — and after 694 people in the state have died of the virus, according to the New York Times. “It’s irresponsible and dangerous to engage in such high-risk behavior just to have some fun over the extended holiday weekend,” Lyda Krewson, the mayor of St. Louis, said in a statement on Tuesday. “Now, these folks will be going home to St. Louis and counties across Missouri and the Midwest, raising concerns about the potential of more positive cases, hospitalizations, and, tragically, deaths. It’s just deeply disturbing and threatens the progress we’ve all made together to flatten the curve.” The Department of Health in Kansas, where Ozarks visitors also returned to after the weekend, similarly asked those who did not observe social distancing to self-quarantine.
Memorial Day weekend took place as the coronavirus death toll in the United States neared 100,000 people, Americans who died in underequipped hospitals and whose loved ones were prevented from saying good-bye or even attending their funerals. And it occurred as states begin to slowly reopen, prompting fears about a second wave of infections. A swim-up bar is already a concept of questionable hygiene — What if people spill?! They must spill. — so the thought of risking it all to drink light beer in standing water while listening to G-Eazy is surreal. One 28-year-old vacationer named Tyler said that the bar he hung out in took his temperature before he entered. “Supposedly there was hand sanitizer there, but I didn’t see any,” he added. “Who is going to put hand sanitizer on and then get in the pool?” Indeed, Tyler.