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Parson says Lake of the Ozarks images not representative of state during ongoing pandemic

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)

Missouri's governor led off his regular weekday COVID-19 briefing Tuesday by addressing the situation at the Lake of the Ozarks over Memorial Day weekend.

Gov. Mike Parson chided some for behavior he deemed irresponsible and said it was not representative of most Missourians.

Watch a replay of Parson's briefing in the player below.

"While poor choices were made by some at the lake there were plenty of other Missourians across the state that did make safe and responsible choices over the holiday weekend," Parson said.

Video and images of crowded pools and bars at the lake were picked up by media outlets across the nation over the holiday weekend. The images drew a response from the state health director, who cautioned revelers to practice social distancing.

Parson labeled the behavior shown in those videos and images -- in which patrons at bars could be seen sitting, standing and swimming without the 6 feet of social distancing required by health orders -- as "potentially dangerous."

The behavior seen at the lake particularly endangers "our most at-risk individuals," Parson said. That group includes the elderly and people with underlying health conditions.

He said enforcement of the state order requiring social distancing is best left to local health departments.

Only 18 of the state's 686 deaths are in Missourians younger than 50.

State officials including Parson have continually said Missouri's case numbers are trending in the right direction.

"Overall we have witnessed responsible practice by our citizens and these efforts have made positive difference in our state," Parson said.

Williams and Parson said they fear the consequences of the activities at the lake in other areas of the state as revelers return home.

Parson appealed to altruism, reminding his audience that the fight against COVID-19 is "about a cause much bigger than ourselves."

The governor also urged people not to read too much into high numbers of new cases reported over the weekend. On Sunday cases rose by more than 200 after weeks of mostly smaller increases.

There's a delay in reporting of positive COVID-19 test results, he said.

“So much of what took place over Memorial Day weekend will be seen in future data,” Parson said.

Parson also said positive cases will increase as testing increases. The state is implementing a plan to increase the number of tests being conducted to 7,500 a day, including "sentinel" testing in state institutions.

The director of the Missouri Department of Corrections director, Anne Precythe, said the state is beginning sentinel testing at four state prisons.

Tests will first be conducted at prisons in Charleston and Licking in southeast and southern Missouri, respectively. More tests will be conducted later at the Chillicothe women's prison and at Algoa in Jefferson City.

Precythe said the state will begin testing all prisoners as they enter the system and before they are released. Up to this point only those with symptoms of COVID-19 have been tested.

The state has reported 43 inmates and 15 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 at the prison in Charleston.

Medicaid expansion put on August ballot

Parson said he has put a ballot measure on Medicaid expansion on the August ballot because it gives the state more time to plan if the measure passes.

"This was about policy, not politics," Parson said.

He said if the measure passes state spending will increase, which will take away from other spending such as education and public safety. Preparing for that will require planning, Parson said.

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Matthew Sanders

Matthew Sanders is the digital content director at ABC 17 News.

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