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ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – People who partied this holiday weekend at the Lake of the Ozarks may have put the St. Louis community at greater risk for becoming infected with COVID-19. As Missouri draws national attention—and criticism—over large gatherings flouting social distancing recommendations, St. Louis County is taking action.

St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page responded Monday after several videos appeared on social media showing hundreds of people—without face masks—packed in swimming pools and summer venues in Lake of the Ozarks.

“The risk of contracting COVID- 19 is exponentially increased,” Page said.

Video of all the partying left Page frustrated.

“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,” he said. “I encourage everyone to follow the Department of Public Health advisory to determine a safe path forward in the workplace.”

The county department of public health has issued a travel advisory and is urging anyone who traveled to Lake of the Ozarks or anywhere else over the weekend while ignoring health recommendations to self-quarantine for 14 days or until they test negative for COVID-19.

It’s difficult to imagine that few people were six feet apart this weekend. Brent Boyles, owner of Marty Byrdes Bar and Grill, said it was hard to control crowds because the rain forced people inside and some were members of big parties of friends.

“It seems like the younger generation doesn’t have any fear here and so it’s really more of a generational thing,” he said. “I really think that’s true.”

The lake is a popular getaway for residents across the state, especially St. Louis City and County.

Some folks think there’s little chance the young people will act responsibly now if they didn’t over the weekend.

Governor Mike Parson allowed businesses and attractions to reopen earlier this month while the state maintained an order that people going out in public practice social distancing and stay 6-feet apart from one another.

Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Director Randall Williams warned everyone “(the virus) is still here” and people must exercise caution and use common sense when going out in public.

Symptoms can appear anywhere between two and 14 days after exposure. Those symptoms include cough or sore throat, fever, difficulty breathing, and loss of taste or smell. Most people who catch COVID-19 will recover in two or three weeks. However, older adults and people with preexisting health problems could be at risk of more severe symptoms and even death.

Page said county officials would be watching test results and hospital admissions. If those numbers show signs of growth, the county could reinstitute restrictions.

“At some point, we need people to take responsibility for their actions,” he said.

The county is also asking employers to screen workers and ask them if they were involved in such activity. They have a list of questions for bosses to ask:

  • Were those you traveled with or spent time with while away from home within 6 feet of others during your trip?
  • Do you live with someone who is more likely to become ill from COVID-19?
  • Are you or those you were traveling with more likely to become ill from COVID19?
  • If you get sick with COVID-19, will you have to miss work?

Meanwhile, Camden County Sheriff Tony Helms issued a statement Monday in response to the large crowds. He said he cannot enforce social distancing guidelines because they are not law.

The sheriff said everyone who visited the lake over the weekend and frequented businesses and attractions each made their own decision, adding that it’s the right of individuals to do so and their own responsibility to follow any health guidelines.

You can read the sheriff’s statement below in its entirety.