While most of Callaway County enjoyed a three-day weekend, contact tracers working for the Callaway County Health Department stayed busy.
"We worked a crew of three on Saturday — one volunteer and two staff," CCHD Director Sharon Lynch wrote in an email Tuesday. "Again on Monday, we worked one volunteer and two staff. Both days, at least eight hours were worked."
The CCHD recorded 20 new cases of COVID-19 between Friday and Tuesday, bringing Callaway County's total known cases to 384 — or 439, if you look at the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Service's total. Of those cases, 117 were still active, beating a previous record of 116 active cases set Sept. 2.
And the contact tracers may get busier still, depending on how Callawegians celebrated during Labor Day weekend.
"Usually a surge can be expected whenever people gather into large groups. The virus is there and can easily spread," Lynch said.
She said the CCHD has already trained seven new contact tracers, in addition to the department's three nurses, and is working on training even more.
During the lead-up to the holiday, the CCHD encouraged area residents to celebrate safely via posts to callawaycovid19.com. "Celebrate Labor Day in the great outdoors! Practice physical distancing, wear a mask and wash hands often. Celebrate the holiday safely!" one read. Other posts suggested avoiding large groups and keeping hand sanitizer on hand.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services also urged caution before the long weekend, as Missouri's total cases edged toward 95,000.
"People tend to let their guard down during these long holiday weekends," said Dr. Randall Williams, director of DHSS, in a press release. "We don't want to see people become complacent. We don't want anyone to contract COVID-19, young or old. Additionally, while it is more likely that young, healthy people may have mild symptoms and quick recoveries, they may unknowingly carry COVID-19 to someone who is unable to fight off the virus."
Nationwide, cases spiked following Memorial Day and Fourth of July weekends; infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci warned multiple national news outlets a similar increase could occur after Labor Day.
The county's highways certainly saw plenty of travelers passing through on their way to Lake of the Ozarks and other vacation hotspots. Other regional news sources, including ABC17, reported Lake of the Ozarks saw its busiest Labor Day weekend in 20 years. For many travelers in the St. Louis region and the northern part of the state, the fastest route to the lake leads along Interstate 70 and Highway 54 — through Kingdom City and down the middle of the county.
"I think (the travel to Lake of the Ozarks) kinda spilled over to here," Kingdom City city manager Curt Warfield Jr. said. "Everyone was going through and stopping here — it was really busy."
That's a good thing for the community's businesses and the city's income, he said Tuesday — Kingdom City had fallen behind on sales tax collections compared to previous years.
"I'd hoped we'd made up some ground, and with this weekend, it looks like we did," he said. "Though, it'll be hard to catch up entirely."
Warfield said he and local business owners haven't been too worried about travelers bringing COVID-19 to town.
"People are being pretty respectful — a lot of them are coming in from areas that already require masks," he said.
Lynch said businesses in Kingdom City and throughout the county are trying to operate responsibly.
"The businesses in Kingdom City are being very careful with cleaning and sanitizing surfaces, they have hand sanitizers out — they are trying to operate their businesses in the safest way possible," she wrote.
The community has a large LED sign out on the road reminding travellers to wash their hands often and stay aware of the ongoing pandemic.
"Maybe they'll recall seeing that sign when they go into one of our stores and think, 'Maybe I should wash my hands,'" he said. "Hopefully everyone's doing their part when they go through town."