LAKE OF THE OZARKS, Mo. — As Missouri communities lift the ban on public gatherings and individuals and families begin taking tentative steps toward normalcy, Lake of the Ozarks is preparing for the busiest time of year: when hundreds of thousands of people per week descend on the Midwest’s playground, from across the Midwest and beyond. As a result, local health experts say they expect to see an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases at the Lake, but they say that’s not a reason to continue any further lockdowns.
Mike Herbert, Miller County Health Department Administrator, predicted: “There’ll be more cases, a spike in cases in the Lake area.” But he pointed out the goal of the shutdowns had been to slow the spread, not to eradicate the virus. “The disease is not going away, it’s going to be here,” he said. And as the Lake area moves into the most crucial months of its economy, Herbert predicted there will be little stopping the reopening. “We all know that the Lake is going to be at about 100 percent by Memorial Day weekend,” he said.
Camden County Health Department Administrator Bee Dampier agrees with Herbert’s prediction of another spike. “We will likely see an increase in cases as we start congregating again,” she told LakeExpo. Dampier said in the early days of the Covid-19 panic, in mid-March, “I was really afraid we were in trouble.” But as people stayed home and the case load fell, Lake Regional Health System took care of the few who grew critically ill and provided a mobile testing facility for the region. “This was extremely valuable as our results were now available in 24 hours rather than the 7-11 day turnaround we had been seeing,” she said. But now that more is known about the virus and Lake Regional has response systems in place, Dampier said “we are probably as ready as we can be” for the area to begin moving towards normalcy.
Lake Regional CEO Dane Henry, in an open-letter penned to the Lake area, said the same. Henry wrote, “Please also realize that this virus will continue to spread. As the state begins to reopen, we must actively monitor the prevalence of cases in our community, execute contact tracing and isolate infection as much as possible. We strongly encourage continued vigilance, social distancing and limiting exposure in public places.” Read Henry’s full letter here.
As of May 11, the three main Lake of the Ozarks area counties—Camden, Miller, and Morgan—had seen 46 total cases: 36 in Camden, 3 in Miller, and 7 in Morgan. That number will inevitably go up, but Herbert says the Lake is ready, and he personally is ready. “My dreams are about quarantine and isolation,” he admitted. “That’s terrible… I’m excited to get back to normal.”
View up-to-date Missouri Covid-19 case totals, by county: https://health.mo.gov/living/healthcondiseases/communicable/novel-coronavirus/results.php