Even though the severity of or number of those who will become ill from the coronavirus (COVID-19) is unknown, given the local community spread of this virus, the court has issued has issued has issued General Order 20-008 regarding restrictions on visitors to the courthouse and General Order 20-009 postponing most civil and criminal proceedings and modifying court operations. The court, however, will remain open for business during this time. Because the courthouse remains open, the following practices have been implemented to minimize exposure to and transmission of the virus:
- Instructing employees to stay home when they have cold or flu symptoms that include signs of a fever, a cough, or shortness of breath. Employees are encouraged to remain home until they are free of these symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g., cough suppressants).
- Directing employees to self-quarantine if they have recently traveled to any of the high-risk countries (as designated by the CDC) or if they have been exposed to anyone in the past 14 days who may have the coronavirus infection (COVID-19).
- Advising supervisors to work with employees who have these symptoms to adequately address sick leave or teleworking options.
- Asking attorneys who are scheduled to appear at court proceedings to contact the assigned judge’s chambers if they have a fever, cough, shortness of breath, or if they have been exposed to anyone in the past 14 days who may have COVID-19.
- Denying entrance to any courthouse visitor who (1) has traveled to, resides with, or has had close contact with someone who has been to any of the high-risk countries within the last 14 days; (2) has been asked to self-quarantine by any hospital or healthcare agency; or (3) has been diagnosed with or has had contact with anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19. Please review the court’s Entry Protocol.
- Excusing prospective jurors or jurors who are experiencing these symptoms or who meet the criteria addressed above.
- Emphasizing that employees should always use respiratory etiquette (coughing or sneezing into a tissue or an elbow) and thorough hand-washing hygiene (washing hands frequently with soap for at least 20 seconds or using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60%–95% alcohol).
- Encouraging employees to avoid shaking hands and to maintain a distance of 6-8 feet between themselves and anyone who appears to be sick. This is often referred to “social distancing.”
- Posting educational material geared toward stopping the spread of germs at the courthouse.
- Providing hand sanitizer, tissues, disinfectant wipes, or masks in locations such as the court entrance, near elevators, and in chambers and courtrooms.
- Increasing routine environmental cleaning of all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace with hospital-grade disinfectants.
- Making cleaning products available to employees to frequently wipe down their workspace surfaces.
Handling the spread of a serious contagion like the coronavirus is primarily the task for public health agencies. Even so, the court has prepared a COVID-19 Response Plan. The court will continue to monitor directives from the World Health Organization, CDC, or local health departments, and reevaluate our response to this virus and modify court operations, as needed.