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Lake of the Ozarks now considered a COVID hot spot

Cases are surging in the counties around the popular summer spot as vaccination rates remain low

CAMDEN COUNTY, Mo. — One of Missouri’s most popular summer destinations is now considered a COVID-19 hot spot. The state’s health department has issued an advisory for the counties surrounding the Lake of the Ozarks.

Camden, Miller and Morgan counties are considered hot spots for the virus as the delta variant surges among the unvaccinated population. All three counties are below the state’s overall vaccination rate of 45.1% as of Friday morning, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services dashboard.

Percent of residents initiating vaccination:

  • Camden 35.9%
  • Miller 24.4%
  • Morgan 29.9%

The health department’s hot spot advisory warns travelers, visitors and residents that COVID-19 cases are increasing in the area, with the delta variant being a driving force behind the surge.

“Cases in Miller, Morgan, and Camden counties are also rising with 38, 41, and 81 respectively in the past week. Disease spread from Southwestern Missouri to the Lake of the Ozarks region is expected. Forecasted rates in Miller, Morgan, and Camden counties could be 3 or more times higher in the coming weeks,” the advisory states. Read the full advisory on the health department's website.

READ MORE: Find vaccine clinics in your area

Cases are rising and hospital beds are filling up in parts of the state. Ventilators have been in short supply in southwest Missouri, with hospitals borrowing machines from Mercy in St. Louis and sending patients to the state’s two biggest cities. More young people are getting sick and more people are getting sick faster, health officials have said.

Greene County, which is where Springfield is located, recently reported 240 new cases in one day.

“We're not a huge community. That's a really large number and we haven't seen these numbers since we had a surge back in December and January,” said Katie Towns, the acting director of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department.

The virus concerns continue south of Springfield to the popular tourist town of Branson and surrounding Taney County. Health officials are concerned as the summer season continues and more visitors come to the area.

Over the past seven days, Taney County has reported a 21% increase in COVID-19 cases. Officials said residents are hesitant to get the shot. Just 29.7% of them have started the vaccination process.

“It runs kind of the gamut,” said Taney County Health Department Director Lisa Marshall. “Maybe they just want to wait and see, or if it's not quite ready yet. Maybe they're just not someone that vaccinates. We've also heard a little bit of concern over how quickly the vaccine was developed.”

RELATED: Missouri governor doesn't want door-to-door vaccine help

Doctors are warning travel destinations where vaccinations are low and cases are climbing could become a new breeding ground for other strains.

“This is going to keep happening. It may peak here and then it's going to spread other places. If we don't get enough vaccinated there is going to be another variant that's probably worse. It's just, that's the way viruses work,” said CoxHealth Emergency Department Medical Director Dr. Howard Jarvis.

Lincoln County is the only jurisdiction in the St. Louis area that has a vaccination rate lower than 30%.

If you want more information on vaccines or help with finding a clinic close to you, text VACCINE to 314-425-5355 or view our complete coverage here.

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