Fallout continues: Officials worried by packed Diamond Lake

Southwest Michigan

LAGRANGE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Health officials, state leaders and neighbors were alarmed by the viral video showing hundreds of people in Diamond Lake on the Fourth of July. 

“It’s a lot of people in one place at the same time,” said Ray Bennett, who rides his Jet Ski on the lake just outside Cassopolis.

Bennett wasn’t on the water Saturday but has seen the video. He said it was disturbing to see so many people partying, unprotected, in the midst of an outbreak. 

>>Video of July 4 party goes viral

“You just expect people to apply a little common sense,” said Bennett. “I think we all got to be considerate.”

Health leaders called the party dangerous.

“It (COVID-19) doesn’t discriminate,” said Danielle Persky of the Van Buren/Cass District Health Department. “The goal right now is to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and when we’re not doing things like social distancing 6 feet apart or wearing masks, we run the risk of spreading it further.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office also expressed dismay.

“While most Michiganders safely enjoyed their holiday weekend, it was incredibly disappointing to see so many people gathering in large groups and not practicing social distancing,” a Monday statement from her office read. “COVID-19 is still very present in Michigan, and this is not a time for Michiganders to let their guards down. We must continue to do everything in our power to flatten the curve and prevent more spread.”

>>Whitmer urges vigilance amid uptick in cases

While the Cass County Sheriff’s Office declined an interview with News 8, it did send a release Monday outlining its longstanding concerns with summer parties on the lake, citing trespassing on private property to access the water, underage and excessive drinking, and unsafe boating, among other things. Deputies increase patrols when parties are happening, as well as ticket and arrest people when necessary.

“The sheriff’s office cannot keep events like this from happening on the lake,” the release (PDF) reads in part. “In attempts to work with the event’s organizers we have found them to be confrontational and not willing to work towards a controlled event.”

It added that it tried to get the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to require a permit for the event, but the DNR said a permit wasn’t necessary.

One of the men who threw the party said he’s not too worried about spreading coronavirus. He said he’ll wait to see if there’s a spike in cases.

“I mean, minimal worries,” said Keith, who asked that his last name not be used. “Yeah, it could’ve spread the virus but it also could not have spread the virus.”

Meanwhile, Bennett, the jet skier, called on everyone to use good judgment.

“Think twice,’ Bennett said. “Be careful where you go, what you do.”

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