Huge sandbar party on Fourth of July may have spread COVID-19, Michigan officials say


A huge party at a sandbar on a Michigan lake over the Fourth of July may have exposed people to COVID-19, health officials say.

Several people who attended the sandbar gathering at Torch Lake in northern Michigan over the holiday weekend have now tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the Health Department of Northwest Michigan. Another health department in the state traced the movements of people with the virus to festivities on the sandbar.

“The positive cases were not able to offer identifying information for all potential contacts and therefore we want to make the public aware that those who attended could be at risk for exposure and additional cases could be seen in the coming days,” the Health Department of Northwest Michigan said in a news release Friday.

The weekend of partying at Torch Lake kept law enforcement even busier than previous years, despite the pandemic that’s so far infected more than 3.1 million people in the U.S. and led to nearly 134,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

A local sheriff’s office reported a 26% increase in police calls over the Fourth of July weekend compared to the previous 10 years, Michigan State Police say.

Photos show large crowds gathering at the sandbar.

“This situation reminds us of how important it is to take precautions such as avoiding large gatherings whenever possible especially without social distancing and masking,” Heath Department of Northwest Michigan Health Officer Lisa Peacock said. “Unfortunately, this is not an isolated event and leaves our community at risk when close contacts are notable to be identified and alerted to quarantine. We can’t stress enough how that it is imperative that we each do our part to stay safe and stay open.”

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On Friday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered residents to wear face masks in all indoor public spaces and outdoor areas where staying six feet away from others isn’t possible, saying efforts to control the coronavirus there appear “stalled” as cases increase.

A day earlier, Whitmer noted another large sandbar party as she prepared to release the mask mandate, WDIV reported. A video shows people crowding together on a sandbar at Diamond Lake in Cass County, Michigan.

Health experts urged Americans to stay home or attend smaller parties with social distancing over the holiday weekend. However, photos and video show crowds ignoring that advice as they flocked to beaches and lakes.

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