Although the lake area has not reported any cases of COVID-19, Camden County Health Director Bee Dampier said the ordinance is a necessary precaution.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to print deadlines, we were unable to include a portion of this information as it broke in the weekend print edition. However, some of this information was already posted on LakeNewsOnline.com. Thank you for understanding.

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In response to the spread of COVID-19 , the Camden County Commission has declared  a state of emergency. The action was taken late Thurs., afternoon on Mar. 19.

Acting on the advice and guidance of the Camden County Health Department, the Camden County Commission has enacted an ordinance that regulates crowd sizes and turns over enforcement authority to the sheriff’s department.

Following the county’s action on Friday, municipalities throughout the county took similar action, closing facilities to the public while continuing to staff departments to maintain operations. 

The ordinance was within the guidelines established by the CDC.

Although the lake area has not reported any cases of COVID-19, Camden County Health Director Bee Dampier said the ordinance is a necessary precaution. 

“Our goal here is to prevent that fast, high peak of cases,” she said. 

Under the guidelines, recreational facilities, conference, event and banquet facilities, wedding venues, gyms, bars, restaurants, and any other public facility or event will limit their patrons to 10 or less, provided they can assure there is adequate spacing of at least 6 feet between groups and adhere to all cleaning and disinfecting guidelines from CDC.  

Food and Beverage establishments are encouraged to provide pick up, curb-side or drive through services as much as possible. It  does not apply to the day-to-day operation of schools, institutions of higher learning, or businesses;

The ordinance makes it illegal to hold gatherings of 50 or more and clearly states that anyone organizing an event or gathering of 49 people or less shall take appropriate action to minimize risk to the greatest extent possible by implementing and enforcing mitigation measures, including but not limited to social distancing, limiting the time period of gatherings, frequent cleaning of all surfaces, and posting of signs.  This applies to recreational facilities, conference, event and banquet facilities, wedding venues, gyms, bars, restaurants, and any other public facility or event. Essential governmental proceedings, educational institutions, daycare facilities, essential business operations, and food stores are exempt. 

The county ordinance does restrict each public facility to 10 patrons. There is no exception for multiple rooms, levels or patios. This does not include staff members.

The Camden County Sheriff’s Department has enforcement powers. They will respond to complaints but do not have the manpower to do compliance checks, according to CCSD Capt. Chris Twitchell.

“Currently this is an unclassified misdemeanor through the state. We have spoken with the health department and our prosecutor's office about how to handle this new mandate. We will be enforcing complaints made to the sheriff’s department. Enforcement falls on the establishment that allows the 

violation. It also fails on the persons or establishments who allow the exceeded amount for gatherings. While we will handle complaints, we do not have the manpower to be proactively doing compliance checks,” Twitchell said. 

To aid those who may have extenuating circumstances and not be able to get food or prescriptions, Camden County has established an emergency hotline that will be staffed from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm for residents who must remain under self-quarantine to deliver food and medicine. The hotline will be staffed by Camden County Emergency Management personnel. 

The county is recommending senior citizens and those with underlying health issues to self-quarantine and remain at home as much as possible. To assist those high risk residents,  the county is responding with the hotline and delivery service. The hotline can be reached at 573 346 6145. 

The county will be using  a combination of employees whose work responsibilities include things like inspections and assessments that have stopped for the time being and volunteers to deliver the much-needed supplies to higher risk groups. The county is partnering with churches and other organizations to coordinate the deliveries. Residents can call the hotline number for details. 

Effective immediately, the Camden County Courthouse will be closed except to the public except for essential services. Services for recording documents, voting and tax payments will continue but other non-essential services have been suspended. Employees will continue to report. Those needing access to the courthouse are asked to use the north entrance.