The Reporter covers Miller, Morgan and Camden County in Central Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks and is published once per week on Wednesdays.


Published June 3, 2020

Sheriff Helms: 'Social Distancing' is not a crime

LAKE OF THE OZARKS - Recently the lake area received some bad publicity from the mainstream media for doing what it does each Memorial Day weekend: welcome thousands of people to the lake area to celebrate the holiday.

Videos appearing on social media were picked up by “news” networks like CNN who were upset that “Social Distancing” was seemingly ignored by those visiting the lake area.

Camden County Sheriff Tony Helms was “interviewed” on an obviously upset CNN about the videos and the activity of the lake area on a major holiday.

On Monday May 25, Helms released a press release explaining to the public (and mainly to the mainstream media) that the lake area is a tourist-driven area and this in normal activity for the lake.

He also stated, once again, that any alleged violations of health department orders are enforced by the health department and not his officers.

It was also stated, contrary to the belief of many, that “social distancing” is not a crime.

We have reprinted the entire letter from The Sheriff below.

Camden County Sheriff’s Office
1 Court Circle, Suite 13
Camdenton, Missouri 65020


This has been a record weekend at the Lake of the Ozarks in the middle of a unique situation. Given the huge influx of people, the Camden County Sheriff’s Office has been busy keeping order. It is the responsibility of my office to enforce laws that we have to duly enforce.

Camden County is a tourism-driven economy and each business owner is working hard to follow the state’s guidelines and protect their patrons and staff. Those who frequented the businesses, bars, and restaurants at the lake this weekend made a conscious decision to attend each event and frequent each location. It was the right and responsibility of each individual who made those decisions to access the risks inherent to those decisions.

The Department of Health and the State of Missouri have eased restrictions and issued guidelines, which include social distancing. Pursuant to section 192.290, RSMO., Missouri law gives the authority and responsibility for investigating and enforcing public health violations to the Missouri Department of health and Senior Services.

Social distancing is not a crime and therefore the sheriff’s office has no authority to enforce actions in that regard. We expect residents and visitors alike to exhibit personal responsibility when at the lake. We also respect the right of citizens to move freely around the lake and take responsibility to protect themselves from any expected dangers related to COVID-19. This includes persons who are at risk and their decision to stay out of the public and away from inherent dangers. We need to trust, engage, and empower Missourians to continue health safety measures while adjustments to restrictions are considered and being implemented.

Sheriff Tony R Helms

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