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Viral Lake of the Ozarks photos prompt St. Louis County to issue travel advisory

Anyone who didn’t keep a safe distance of 6 feet should self-quarantine for 14 days or until testing negative for COVID-19, the county said

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — A lack of social distancing over the holiday weekend prompted St. Louis County’s top leader to ask for a travel advisory — and urge anyone who ignored social distancing to self-quarantine for 14 days.

"What we saw this weekend was an international example of bad judgement," St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said.

Viral photos and videos from the Lake of the Ozarks showed people crowded in swim-up bars, outdoor restaurants and patios. Banners asked patrons to keep a safe social distance, but people were shoulder-to-shoulder and no masks could be seen.

"That is an exponential risk of contracting COVID-19, of transmitting COVID-19 and bringing it back to our community at the exact wrong time," Page said.

St. Louis and St. Louis County have been gradually reopening for a week. St. Louis County said the crowds at the lake included people from the St. Louis area. 

"This is a time when we're starting to ease some of our restrictions and get more movement in our community and try and do it in a thoughtful, measured way. And what we saw this weekend was not thoughtful," Page said.

RELATED: Missouri health director's dire warning to partiers: 'COVID-19 is still here'

Credit: KSDK

When asked about how the advisory will be enforced, Page said there's no way to know who was part of the crowds, but he hopes people take personal responsibility and "do the right thing," he said.

The advisory also urges employers to ask workers about any recent traveling they’ve done and their social distancing behaviors.

Anyone who didn’t keep a safe distance of 6 feet should self-quarantine for 14 days or until testing negative for COVID-19, the county said.

RELATED: Camden County sheriff: Nothing illegal about Lake of the Ozarks parties

Doctors are bracing for a possible impact of the holiday weekend crowds on COVID-19 cases in the St. Louis region.

"Everyone should be concerned for looking out, now, two to three weeks in advance," said Dr. Matt Broom, who is chief medical officer at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital.

Broom cautioned the need for social distancing will be here until there's a vaccine or cure.

"This isn't a sprint. I mean, this is truly a marathon. We don't get to the race at the end of May. This is the kind of thing that we we'll unfortunately have to work through not only this entire summer but into the fall and winter," he said.

And if, at any point, crowded events lead to an increase in cases and hospital admissions, Page said we could move backwards in the reopening timeline.

"We'll be watching," he said. "We'll watch those hospital admissions. We'll watch the testing results, and we'll see where we go over the next couple of weeks."

You can watch 5 On Your Side's full interview with Page by clicking play on the video below.

St. Louis County offered the following four questions businesses should consider asking employees as they begin reopening:

  • Were those you traveled with or spent time with while away from home within 6 feet of others during your trip? Being within 6 feet of others increases your chances of getting infected and infecting others.
  • Do you live with someone who is more likely to become ill from COVID-19? If you get infected while traveling you can spread COVID-19 to loved ones when you return, even if you don’t have symptoms.
  • Are you or those you were traveling with more likely to become ill from COVID- 19? Older adults and people of any age who have a serious underlying medical condition are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
  • If you get sick with COVID-19, will you have to miss work? People with COVID-19 disease need to stay home until they are no longer considered infectious, for at least 14 days.

You can read the full St. Louis County travel advisory below.