After concerns about partying during Memorial Day weekend and COVID-19 data, state officials emphasized personal responsibility and transparency.
Gov. Mike Parson addressed videos of packed crowds at Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks and reminded everyone of the importance of social distancing during a news conference Tuesday.
“We know that many people are excited about the progress that we have made during the reopening,” Parson said, “and we must remember that this is about a cause much bigger than ourselves.”
While Parson said the vacationers represent only “a small sample of Missouri,” there are concerns about the possibility of spreading COVID-19 when they return home. Leaders in St. Louis and Kansas City have requested people who went to the Ozarks to quarantine for 14 days.
Randall Williams, the director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, warned about spreading COVID-19 after the holiday weekend in a statement Monday.
“When (people) then carry the virus and transmit it to a more vulnerable person, this is when we tend to see the long-lasting and tragic impact of these decisions that are being made,” Williams said in the statement .
Although Parson’s official order states both local and state officials are responsible for enforcing social distancing, Parson said the majority of authority falls on the local health departments.
“You can’t send somebody to check every person in the state of Missouri to make sure they’re standing 6 feet apart,” Parson said. “I am not going to send the National Guard. I’m not going to send the highway patrol out to monitor this.”
State officials also addressed questions about COVID-19 testing data.
DHSS announced Saturday in a statement that previous testing numbers reflected both COVID-19 and antibody testing, and it said it was following guidelines made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Williams denied antibody testing was incorporated into the official data Thursday during a news conference.
Williams said Tuesday both he and his senior staff were unaware of antibody testing being counted as COVID-19, and the mistake had been corrected on Missouri’s COVID-19 Dashboard to separate the two.
Others were also concerned after the updated dashboard indicated the first case of COVID-19 in Missouri occurred on Feb. 2, more than a month before a case was announced by state officials in March. Williams said some patients reported having symptoms of the coronavirus in February.
“The best thing we can do for the public is to be transparent,” Parson said. “Nobody knew when the first case came to the state of Missouri ... . All we know is the first active reported case, and that’s what we reported.”
Positive COVID-19 cases in Missouri reached 12,291 Tuesday, with 686 deaths. There have been 123 positive cases in Boone County, including 21 active, and one death.