The COVID-19 pandemic meant that Memorial Day weekend 2020 didn't look the same as it usually does... in most places. At the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri, there was still a raucous, crowded party that went viral precisely because it didn't look like anyone was properly socially distancing.
Good Morning America anchor Scott Pasmore's footage of the party went viral, and many voiced their concern that these people were putting not only themselves but any loved ones they lived with at risk of contracting the virus.
And it turns out, our fears were not unfounded. BuzzFeed News reports that as of Friday, May 29, one person who was at that party has tested positive for COVID-19. In a press release, the Camden County Health Department said that a Boone County resident had tested positive for the virus after "being in the Lake area on May 23 and 24."
While they did not release the name of the person, they did release a detailed timeline of the areas this person visited on both Saturday and Sunday. They believe there is a possibility this person was infectious at the time of their visit.
The health department urged anyone who was there to monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 and to stay home if they get sick. Organizers of the party were going to put extra precautions in place.
They were supposedly going to limit capacity, take people's temperatures on arrival, and sanitize extra well. But the viral images from the party made it very clear that there were too many people in too small a space and that people could not stay at least six feet away from each other.
In a statement on Facebook, Gary D. Prewitt, the owner of Backwater Jacks Bar and Grill, says that it was "inevitable" that they would allow carriers of the virus onto the premises. "This will continue throughout the season," he continued. "Unfortunately, the virus will be part of our lives for the unseen future."
At no time did he say that they would consider closing while the pandemic rages on, but rather that people should stay home if they feel ill or are immunocompromised in any way. "We will continue to take additional precautions throughout the summer to reduce the risk," he writes. "However, we believe each of our customers should have the freedom to choose whether they want to visit Backwater Jacks or not."
Because COVID-19 has an incubation period of 2-14 days, and because some people who carry the disease won't feel symptoms at all, it's not likely that we'll know the true impact of this gathering for some time.
Remember that when you come into contact with another person, you're not just coming into contact with that person. You're potentially coming into contact with every person that person has interacted with and vice versa. The person who tested positive for COVID-19 didn't just possibly infect the other people there but every other person those people live with and interact with.
As the U.S. death toll from COVID nears 100,000, this is how people spent Saturday at Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. pic.twitter.com/EBZKCQjRKf— Mark Elliott (@markmobility) May 24, 2020
But some people either don't care that they're potential spreaders of the virus or they don't believe it will affect them and their loved ones, despite evidence that COVID-19 can be deadly for perfectly healthy individuals.
When BuzzFeed News interviewed one attendee of the party, Tyler Crancer, his actual words were, "Now that I think about it, probably not a great idea, but there [is] not law when you're drinking the Claw." He was referring, of course, to White Claw, the brand of hard seltzer. That about sums it up.