The popular vacation spot Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri was full to bursting with Memorial Day revelers this weekend, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Photos and videos from the scene did not show any concern for social distancing, let alone the use of masks, gloves or other precautions. Onlookers are now fearful of how gatherings like this will impact the United States' slow recovery from COVID-19.
Tourists and locals packed the Lake of the Ozarks this weekend, as viral videos and pictures on Twitter showed. Footage from packed resorts, restaurants and private parties made the rounds, but according to a report by the Kansas City Star, the crowding was not restricted to one area. Even the water was reportedly crowded, with boats and swimmers crowding every available space to make the most of their holiday weekend.
The revelers at The Lake of the Ozarks this weekend seem to be an even split of vacationers from out of town and locals. They said that they were excited to have a sense of normalcy and a break from the COVID-19 anxiety, though onlookers thought there was little hope of that in a crowd that size.
"It's interesting. I'm just glad to see people are back down here because a lot of these businesses are only open for three, four months out of the year. They gotta make their money somehow," a college student told reporters.
"It's been terrific because most things down here are pretty open," added a man from Illinois. "It's as close to normal as you can possibly get. Illinois is still pretty much locked down."
Critics said that gatherings like this only proved how badly stay-at-home orders are needed to make social distancing formal and enforceable. Even in the crowds, some people seemed to think they were staying relatively safe as long as they were outdoors.
This is what’s happening right now at the Lake of the Ozarks pic.twitter.com/ipdiAkxDM7— Nick Dyer (@nicholasddyer) May 24, 2020
"We're not really going out to restaurants or anything like that. Still, it's nice to do something a little bit different; be in the sunshine," one woman said. Another added: "Obviously seeing family and friends, that's the number one thing: staying safe. Being able to come down here where it's a nice little vacation. It minimizes as much contact as possible, get the boat around, get some sun."
Public health experts say that social distancing must continue to prevent an even more significant surge in COVID-19 deaths in the coming months. Outside, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing some kind of mask or face covering if you are going to be close to other people, and staying at least six feet apart. For the latest information on the coronavirus pandemic, visit the websites of the CDC and the World Health Organization.