A Boone County resident who began feeling symptoms of COVID-19 while at the Lake of the Ozarks generated a health warning Friday from the Camden County Health Department.
The person, who is not identified by age or sex, was at the Blackwater Jack’s “Zero Ducks to Give” party that drew national and international attention to Missouri for the large numbers who lounged at close quarters.
The news came as the Columbia-Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services reported three new cases — bringing the total so far this week to 24 — with 116 people in quarantine and eight county residents hospitalized with the illness.
There have been 141 cases of COVID-19 in Boone County since mid-March. There are 30 active cases and 16 inpatient cases, including residents of other counties, in Columbia hospitals. Six are on ventilators.
Among those in quarantine are staff and clients of a Columbia child care center who came into contact with a child who tested positive without showing symptoms. The center, Tiger Tots Academy on Claudell Lane, is owned by Paul Prevo, who sued Health Director Stephanie Browning over the county’s restrictions following the lifting of stay-at-home orders on May 4.
In the release about the Boone County visitor to the lake, the Camden County Health Department stated that the person arrived Saturday, partied during the day at various locations, and continued to visit restaurants and other locations after showing symptoms Sunday.
The person was likely infectious the entire time at the lake, the department stated.
“Due to the need to inform mass numbers of unknown people, we are publicly releasing the following timeline, which was provided by the case,” the release stated.
In addition to spending about four hours at Backwater Jacks, from 1 to 5 p.m., the infectious person also visited Shady Gators and Lazy Gators Pool, from about 5:40 to 9 p.m. and returned to Blackwater Jacks from 9:40 to 10 p.m.
On Sunday, the infectious person was at Buffalo Wild Wings from 1 to 2 p.m., and at Shady Gators from 2:30 to about 7 p.m. before taking a cab back to a private residence.
Tiger Tots reported the case involving one of its children in a Facebook post Thursday.
The post stated that the student, who was not named, was tested as part of a contact-tracing effort by the Columbia-Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services for contact outside the center.
“The consistent effort to follow stable group and staffing procedures, as well as stringent sanitation and disinfecting processes, has been successful in limiting this exposure to a very small group of Tiger Tots’ students and teachers,” the post states.
The post did not state when the child was tested or where the child contracted the infection, except that it was at a private function outside of the child care center.
All students, their parents and the employees who had contact with the child are in quarantine for 14 days, the post states.
Tiger Tots owner Paul Prevo did not return a message seeking comment.
Prevo, Tiger Tots Academy and Tiger Tots Child Development Center on Paris Road on May 11 sued Browning, arguing that limits on the number of children who could be served and the way they were to be grouped.
On May 15, Judge Brouck Jacobs denied Prevo’s request for a temporary restraining order to block enforcement of the rules.
Under the order at the time, children were not allowed to be in groups larger than 10 and were supposed to be in stable groups that did not change through the day, with adult supervision that did not change.
In testimony seeking the order, Prevo said his business was losing about $28,400 per week trying to comply with the orders.
“If I have to stay at reduced numbers and my costs aren’t going down, you can’t maintain a business,” Prevo said.
The restrictions also have an impact on the children, Prevo said.
“They don’t understand why they can’t play together, why they can’t see each other, why they can’t interact,” he said.
As of Monday, those groups were allowed to be increased to 25 children in stable groups.
Prevo dropped the lawsuit’s challenge to Browning’s authority to issue health orders for the area outside Columbia but has continued the lawsuit opposing the order within city limits. Both businesses are in Columbia, while Prevo lives in Hallsville.
While Prevo did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment, Tiger Tots Academy responded to several comments on Facebook, both to defend Prevo’s lawsuit and their actions to prevent the introduction of COVID-19 to the centers.
“Glad the suit you filed didn't go in your favor then, as that could have made things even worse...,” one commenter wrote.
In response, Tiger Tots stated that it expected to eventually deal with the disease among its staff or children.
“We do wish that we were the only center that had a student test positive for COVID-19,” the response states. “We have known since the beginning that it was an inevitable circumstance, especially given the significant presence of health and home care workers in our community. We do appreciate that members of the community have valid concerns and differing opinions.”
The health department has not identified publicly any business where an employee has tested positive or been visited by someone who has tested positive. City Manager John Glascock, when asked after his State of the City Address on Thursday, said it was a matter of privacy.
Assistant Health Director Scott Clardy, in an interview with the Tribune, said businesses would only be identified if they could not provide full information for contact tracing.
There have been cases reported among employees at Schnucks Market and several nursing homes, but Prevo’s is the first child care center with a known case.
“The good news is we care enough about our students and families that we honestly share that a student has tested positive and are upfront about it,” Tiger Tots wrote in one response on Facebook. “We do that so we can answer questions to the best of our ability and knowledge. Again, we wish we were the only center in town to have an asymptomatic student test positive.”