Monday morning was surprisingly quiet at the County Courthouse as hearings began to get underway again for the first time since the middle of March.
Signs were placed in plain view asking people to observe social distancing and masks were available at the entrance for anybody to take if they were without one.
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“It’ll Pick Up”
Cleo Fields was sanitizing the surfaces of his shoe shine stand. Mr. Fields has been a fixture in the courthouse for 23 years.
Free Press spoke to Mr. Fields as he waited for customers, and asked what he’s been doing since he has been shut down since March.
“A whole lot of nothing,” said Mr. Fields. “I expected a madhouse today. It’ll pick up.”
Face masks required?
Free Press spoke to Director of Emergency Management David Barnes about precautions for the close quarters of the elevators.
“Mask use is required on elevators,” said Barnes. “Enforcement of that is difficult, but we’re offering masks and trying to make sure the public has the resources they need to be safe while they’re here.”
Indeed, as we spoke to Barnes, signs were being placed by the elevators, reading, “FACEMASKS ARE REQUIRED TO BE WORN ON ELEVATOR.”
There might have been some confusion on this point. A visitor passing through security asked a deputy, “Are we supposed to wear a mask?” The deputy responded, “They’re asking you too, but it’s not required.”
Indeed, many people did not take advantage of the masks provided at the entrance. However, the majority of people were wearing the masks provided or masks brought in from outside.
Outside the Courthouse Annex, District One Chief Deputy Joe Blough and First Deputy Cody Compton were hanging signs directing people to the proper entrance for court hearings and discouraging people exhibiting symptoms of Coronavirus from entering the facility.
Keith Monroe, speaking to Free Press by phone, said that the county has engaged an additional 26 people through a janitorial contractor to help disinfect the buildings during the day.
“We’ve procured enough hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies and we’ve repurposed hands-free soap dispensers to be hand sanitizer stations. We also have a refilling station for hand sanitizer stations,” said Monroe.
He added, “We have been working on plexiglass sneeze guards for all customer service counters in both buildings. And we have two disinfection personnel per floor in both buildings.”
Back to Business
District One County Commissioner Carrie Blumert, reached by text, said “I am glad our courts have opened back up for normal business. We are very behind and need time to catch up. We are putting safety policies in place and ask that anyone coming to the courthouse wears a mask, including staff. If you don’t have one, we will provide you one. Masks are required if you ride an elevator and strongly encouraged elsewhere.”
Blumert went on, “We have cleaning crews on site from 8-5 Monday through Friday cleaning all high-touch surfaces several times a day.”