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Virus cases jump in Branson area after tourists return

BRANSON, Mo. (AP) — A jump in coronavirus cases after many businesses in the Branson area reopened to tourists has health officials concerned.

The Taney County Health Department urged people to wear masks in public after reporting 11 new cases of COVID-19 Saturday. The county’s virus cases jumped to 54 from 15 over the past two weeks, and that total doesn’t include visitors to the area who test positive but are counted in their home counties.

The case numbers remain small compared with urban areas of the state, but Branson is a town of fewer than 12,000 residents in southwestern Missouri.

Health officials have worried that once the state opened back up they would see more cases.

Many of Branson’s businesses, including miniature golf courses, shops and restaurants, have reopened for tourism. Many entertainers have returned to their stages around Branson as well.

On Friday evening, dozens of people gathered for an outdoor concert at the Branson Landing. That outdoor mall along Lake Taneycomo will also host an Independence Day celebration this week complete with a beer garden, musical acts and fireworks.

Last week, the Taney County Health Department’s board passed a resolution asking residents and visitors to wear face masks or coverings in public places. But it is not a requirement.

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