Lake Ozarks area health departments endorse limited information on COVID-19 exposure

Sara Forhetz Camden County supports the way it discloses information about COVID-19. The health department does not provide specific locations where people could have been exposed to the coronavirus.
Some health departments disclose those details, and others do not.

The state does not require counties to list locations of possible exposure to COVID-19 by name. Some companies, especially in a tourist city, say they agree with that, although some customers say that more transparency could be more beneficial.

Scuttlebutts is a place where everyone knows your name. Phil Widdowson is a regular.

“I know the risk. Everyone should be aware that it is here; it is not going anywhere,” said Widdowson.

He is one who says everyone should take the risk when they walk in, but would like to hear more details from the Camden County Health Department about where people might have come in contact with a COVID positive patient.

“That solves the communication problem you have: knowing who has been sick and who has not,” he said.

But Widdowson also says he can see how too many details could do more harm than good for the local economy, especially since health experts say the risk of getting the coronavirus from an infected person in the same business is low.

Many lake area businesses in Camden and Miller counties make almost all of their money in five short months.

“Yes, we should be aware that he is here at the lake, but I think companies have the right to remain anonymous,” said Patrick Cochran, co-owner of Scuttlebutts Bar and Grill. He says he has seen first hand how expensive this virus can be.

“Someone broadcasted us on social media saying that there were two cases outside our bar when this first happened. That was completely untrue, but it still cost us long-term business,” said Cochran.

Each county can choose for itself what to release. Camden County supports their method. The health manager would not go to the camera, but says that if you say that restaurant ‘A’ had a case, then everyone goes to restaurant ‘B’, thus creating a larger crowd and making it more difficult to distance themselves socially.

“You have to be careful not to take any of our small businesses out of our community because you’re just killing what we’re doing here,” said Cochran.

He can see both sides, but it’s a balance between being an open book and having to close his books completely.

“For a small business like this, it could sink you, so I don’t think it’s necessary.”

The Camden County Health Department says the numbers could increase because they are offering more free tests. They are in their third week of free trials, and it will continue through December.