Besides, Shapiro said, “we’re millennials, we’re healthy.” She said she and her friends were trying to follow guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and planned to isolate themselves for 14 days after returning home to St. Louis.
Proprietors at a number of the bars and eateries that line the Missouri vacation spot said the crowds were about normal for an early summer weekend — albeit smaller than the hordes that packed into the area on Memorial Day. Images of the holiday revelry went viral online.
Local health officials reported that at least one person tested positive for the coronavirus after being in the lake area last weekend. The Camden County Health Department posted a timeline of the multiple bars the unnamed resident of a nearby county had visited in succession over a number of hours.
But on Saturday, face masks and social distancing were scarce to nonexistent in the many marinas and boat docks, and restaurants along the lakefront appeared to be open for business.
Similar scenes played out around the country as many Americans, eager to recapture a sense of normalcy and seemingly confident that the risk was low, enjoyed public recreation and seemed unbothered by the crowds.
Crowds of another sort gathered in a number of cities, where thousands took to the streets, at times amid violence, in protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd, a black man, by white police in Minneapolis.
“We are still in the middle of a pandemic,” Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) reminded demonstrators in a news conference where he announced the full mobilization of the state National Guard to control the violent unrest.
Warning that hospitals were “on the verge of being overrun,” Walz said “demonstrators should wear masks and try to practice social distancing.”
Far from the demonstrations, highways were gridlocked and beaches and roadsides were crowded around Cape Canaveral, Fla., as thousands gathered to view the launch of the SpaceX capsule carrying NASA astronauts to the International Space Station. In some spots, the waterfront was crammed with no social distancing, even as beachside restaurants took temperatures and spaced tables far apart.
President Trump, Vice President Pence and their official parties who gathered with other VIPs to watch the launch at the Kennedy Space Center were not seen wearing face masks.
Ace Speedway in Elon, N.C., was rebuked last weekend by Gov. Roy Cooper (D) for “dangerous and reckless” flouting of state regulations banning outdoor gatherings of more than 25 people, after maskless thousands stood together in the grandstands. On Saturday, however, the speedway parking lot was overflowing, and hundreds more stood in line two hours before the 7 p.m. race time.
Temperatures were taken at the entrance, where a sign advised patrons to cover their mouths when sneezing and to wash their hands or use sanitizers. Limits were posted on how many mechanics could gather around cars in the pit — where most wore face masks. But up in the stands, there was neither social distancing nor masks.
“It’s not a crisis. The actual virus is real, but the pandemic is made up,” said Joe Florio, standing in line with his daughter and grandson. A reporter’s interview was cut short when an employee at the gate, speaking for track owner Jason Turner, ordered journalists off the property.
Some people interviewed Saturday declared themselves confused by the patchwork of differing state and local requirements, along with enforcement that ranges from restrictive to none. Others said they were being careful. Still others said they were disbelieving or simply mad at what they considered an exaggerated threat.
“All of us old, belligerent people refuse to wear those d----- things,” Lenny Kempf, an 82-year-old retired home builder, said of face masks as he watched the boats easing into slips at the yacht club in Osage Beach, Mo. “I wish I could wring [Anthony S.] Fauci’s neck,” Kempf said of the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“I think we’re really concerned about the mixed messaging and the confusion that it creates,” said Umair Shah, executive director of public health for Harris County in Texas. “That then leads to complacency, where people say, ‘You know what? Not worth it.’ ”
Two to four weeks after many states began lifting restrictions on restaurants, bars and larger gatherings, cases are rising in areas that had previously dodged the worst of the virus’s impact. Arizona, Mississippi, South Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin all set record highs for new cases reported Friday. Restaurants, gyms, and other businesses have been allowed open for at least two weeks in all of the states.
The five are among 18 states that continue to see increases in their rolling seven-day case averages as of Friday, according to Washington Post data, as has Puerto Rico. Some of the places, such as Washington state, California and parts of Virginia, had imposed stringent stay-at-home measures and had been cautious in their reopening procedures. Other states experiencing case increases, such as Alabama, Missouri and Tennessee, have been more aggressive in their push to reopen.
In many areas, large gatherings are cited as the center of major outbreaks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently highlighted an Arkansas church event that infected dozens and left at least three dead. In California on Saturday, a number of churches said they would defy strict limits on inside services set by the state government — and upheld Friday by the U.S. Supreme Court.
In Missouri this past week, local officials expressed public displeasure with the disregard for social distancing shown by those gathered at Lake of the Ozarks. But Rex Archer, director of health for nearby Kansas City, Mo., bemoaned not only the behavior of those in attendance, but also the lack of consistent messaging from the federal government that he said facilitated it.
“If we had stronger messages, if the CDC had been allowed to give daily briefs, if the public were hearing the concerns and the risks, we might have been able to do differently,” Archer said.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R) largely downplayed the Memorial Day holiday event, arguing that most Missourians were adhering to public health recommendations.
“The Lake of Ozarks is a small sample of Missouri,” he said at a news conference. “While poor choices were made by some at the lake, there were many other Missourians across the state who did make safe and responsible choices.”
Farwell reported from Lake of the Ozarks, Mo., and Schneider from Elon, N.C.