Cramming into a crowded public pool is never pleasant: You have limited space to roam, bodies are everywhere, and you can’t help but feel like you’re steeping in a medley of questionable body odor and grime. One would imagine a fatal pandemic wreaking havoc around the world and killing over 100,000 Americans in the last few months would make the prospect of hitting up a packed pool full of strangers even more unappealing than usual. But for hundreds of partygoers in the Ozarks, the prospect of a covid-19 stew was just what the hypothetical Trump University degree-holding doctor ordered, to the horror of local health officials.
Health officials in Missouri are calling for the self-quarantine of every individual who attended a crowded pool party at Backwater Jack’s Bar and Grill in Osage Beach, a city located on the shores of Lake of the Ozarks. One viral video of the event has racked up over 18 million views on Twitter alone, showing a slew of people packed inside and around a shallow swimming pool with nary a mask in sight. The only thing that made the video more disturbing was the sound of Panic! At the Disco’s “High Hopes” playing in the background.
NBC News reports that the viral video spurred a self-quarantine directive by the director of Kansas City, Missouri’s health department and a travel advisory courtesy of St. Louis County:
“This reckless behavior endangers countless people and risks setting us back substantially from the progress we have made in slowing the spread of COVID-19,” Dr. Sam Page, the county executive, said in a statement.
The health department expressed concern in its travel advisory that people from the St. Louis area were at Lake of the Ozarks over the weekend. “Any person who has travelled and engaged in this behavior should self-quarantine for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result for COVID-19,” the advisory said.
Dr. Rex Archer, director of the Kansas City, Missouri, Health Department, also tweeted his dismay.
“Anyone who didn’t practice CDC, DHSS, and KCMO Health Department social distancing guidance should self quarantine for 14 days if they have any compassion for others,” Archer wrote alongside a video of partying at Lake of the Ozarks.
Kansas City NBC affiliate KSHB spoke with Jodi Atkins, a woman who attended the pool party and appeared unbothered by the national outrage. Atkins insisted that temperatures were taken at the door and that there was a big tub of hand sanitizer too. Of course, those afflicted with covid-19 who do not always have fevers, and asymptomatic carriers of the virus may not display obvious signs of illness whatsoever. So temperature checks and hand sanitizer can only do so much for people crammed together without masks while a very contagious virus makes the rounds.
This didn’t seem to bother Atkins, who suggested that how one stays safe is a matter of personal preference.
“If you’re worried about getting sick, obviously, or you want to distance yourself, it’s pretty much to each their own,” Akins told KSHB. “You just kind of have to do what you feel is right.”
Gary Prewitt, the owner of Backwater Jack’s, told KSHB on May 19 that he anticipated 1,000 visitors on Memorial Day weekend with social distancing measures, but admitted that social distancing could be a challenge.
“Keeping people apart six feet, we don’t know who’s in groups, who’s in families, we expect them to do that on their own,” Prewitt said. “We won’t let large groups gathering over 10—at least try not to—and [we’ll] speak to them to spread out a little bit more.”
Judging by the video shot as Prewitt’s establishment, spreading out was not enforced whatsoever.
But this is of little consequence to Osage Beach Mayor John Olivarri, who offered the following statement: “Are we going to make everyone happy because we’re open? Probably not. Do I feel bad that our businesses have opened up and given our employees the opportunity to work and feed their families? Absolutely not.”
Covid-19 cases are on the rise in Missouri, with over 11,700 confirmed cases and 676 deaths. It doesn’t take a genius to know that that corona-petri dish in Backwater Jack’s swimming pool could be ground zero for a spike. But, hey, at least it helped Missouri’s economy in the ultra-short-term, right?