Hundreds of Thousands Gather in Missouri to Party Over Holiday Weekend amid Pandemic

Hundreds of thousands of revelers crowded bars and beaches across the country over the July 4th holiday weekend, despite the fact that coronavirus cases remain on the rise.

Bar owners at the Lake of the Ozarks, a popular resort destination in Missouri, estimated that close to 800,000 people would visit over the weekend, according to Fox affiliate WDAF, and viral videos show that many of those people did not adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Video taken at Lake of the Ozarks bar Backwater Jack’s shows hundreds of people in and gathered around a pool, many of whom are in close proximity and are not wearing masks.

The bar previously made headlines around Memorial Day weekend, when a person who later tested positive for coronavirus visited several local bars, including Backwater Jack's, during the holiday weekend, according to the Camden County Health Department.

“We are treating [July 4] like a normal holiday weekend. We really do feel like this is going to be the biggest holiday weekend the lake has ever seen,” said Jeremy Gorham, who co-owns a bar near Backwater Jack’s called Shady Gators. “We are getting people that are coming from everywhere right now.”

Gorham told WDAF that his bar is taking precautionary measures such as temperature checks, hand sanitizer, and increased cleanings.

“It’s just been the most difficult summer I’ve ever endured,” he said. “We are very grateful and appreciative for everyone coming to the Lake of the Ozarks this summer. It doesn’t go unnoticed.”

Businesses in Missouri re-opened in May, and Gov. Mike Parson lifted all restrictions on June 16, though in the weeks since, the state “has seen several record-setting single-day increases in coronavirus cases,” according to The New York Times.

On June 14, there were just 57 new cases reported, and by the next day, there were 328 new cases, according to the Times. New cases have been on an upward tick since then, and on July 3, there were 535 new cases.

After criticism following the Memorial Day weekend partying, Camden County Sheriff Tony Helms said that the sheriff’s office has no authority to enforce social distancing, since it is not a crime, according to WDAF.

Osage Beach Mayor John Olivarri, meanwhile, has said that while he wants people to stay safe, it is ultimately up to individuals to make their own decisions regarding coronavirus precautions, according to CBS affiliate KCTV.

Meanwhile, other similar situations popped up around the country over the weekend, including at the Sandbar at Diamond Lake in Michigan.

A video shared by a WSBT reporter on Saturday showed hundreds of people singing and dancing while crammed together in the water sans masks.

Michigan, too, is reporting rises in the number of coronavirus cases, according to The Detroit News.

Wisconsin Dells also saw an increase in tourism, and roughly 100,000 people were expected to visit the area’s resorts for the holiday weekend despite the pandemic, Fox affiliate WMSN reported.

Among the places drawing a large crowd was the Noah’s Ark water park, which was seen in photographs hosting hundreds of people in close proximity and without masks.

The park’s general manager Mark Whitfield told WMSN that his team has spent the last few months preparing for the weekend, and has mandated temperature checks and masks for employees. He said guests are asked to socially distance and wear masks, though masks are not required.

As of Monday afternoon, the U.S. has seen at least 2.9 million cases and 129,938 deaths attributed to coronavirus, according to the Times.

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