JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — During his daily coronavirus briefing Tuesday, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson wasted no time in addressing the viral photos, videos and social media posts that showed people ignoring social distancing guidelines at the Lake of the Ozarks over the holiday weekend.
"There were some poor decisions that were made and social distancing was not followed," the governor said. "When social distancing is not followed it is potentially dangerous for everyone, especially our most at-risk individuals."
Gov. Parson pointed out that the people who were crowded in swim-up bars and at outdoor restaurants at the lake went home to districts and cities through the state, complicating the impact those decisions could have on local communities over the next couple weeks.
"Poor choices were made at the lake," Gov. Parson said, adding that many other Missourians throughout the state "made safe and responsible choices over the weekend."
Parson stressed the need to follow social distancing guidelines, which call for staying 6 feet away from others and limit exposure to others when outside of your home.
He called the importance of social distancing "a cause much bigger than ourselves" and said keeping the spread of COVID-19 low will help keep Missouri "headed in a safe and healthy direction."
Dr. Randall Williams, director of Missouri's Department of Health and Senior Services Director, echoed the governor's concerns.
"Going forward, I would highly encourage people to practice social distancing," Williams said. "Just because you're outdoors, you still need to be 6 feet away."
"We really don't want to backslide," Williams emphasized.
When asked whether the state would get involved in enforcing social distancing measures, Gov. Parson said he would leave it up to local authorities.
"I think they'll make the right decisions," he said.
But, both local and state officials have the authority to enforce social distancing according to the Governor’s state-wide social distancing order which says “this order shall be observed throughout the state and enforced by all local and state health authorities.”
Any enforcement would likely come through court action against businesses not adhering to the order.
There have been 12,167 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the state and 685 deaths, as of May 25, according to the state's website.
Missouri goes viral for crowded bar photos at Lake of the Ozarks
Tuesday's daily briefing came after a holiday weekend that landed Missouri in the national spotlight.
Photos showing people partying and ignoring social distancing guidelines at the Lake of Ozarks this Memorial Day weekend went viral. Partiers were seen shoulder-to-shoulder in swim-up bars, at outdoor restaurants, bars and patios — all while standing under large banners that encouraged social distancing.
Missouri top health official released a statement Monday morning reminding residents the coronavirus is still a concern and social distancing needs to continue.
“The virus can be transmitted even among those young and healthy who aren’t experiencing symptoms. When they then carry the virus and transmit it to a more vulnerable person, this is when we tend to see the long-lasting and tragic impact of these decisions that are being made,” said Dr. Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
The scenes at the lake prompted St. Louis County to issue a travel advisory for anyone who went out of town and ignored social distancing guidelines.
Under the advisory, people who ignored social distancing guidelines during a holiday weekend getaway are urged to self-quarantine for 14 days or until testing negative for COVID-19.
The Camden County sheriff said the revelers did not break any laws.
"Social distancing is not a crime and therefore the sheriff's office has no authority to enforce actions in that regard," Sheriff Tony Helms said in a statement Monday. "We expect residents and visitors alike to exhibit personal responsibility when at the lake."