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Emergency judicial order extended; clerk’s office divides shifts to avoid COVID exposure

Chief Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin signed an emergency judicial order related to COVID-19 adding on to the statewide rules in place. 

“The COVID-19 disease continues to post great risk to public health, and despite the implementation of and adherence to safe operating guidelines in this circuit, a number of courthouse employees have tested positive for COVID-19,” according to Gosselin’s order. “Additionally, local and statewide case numbers continue to rise.” 

The judicial order signed by Gosselin is for Hall and Dawson counties as part of the Northeastern Judicial Circuit. 

Jury trials and grand juries have been delayed until at least Oct. 1, and Gosselin established a “COVID-19 jury committee” to establish protocol for resuming trials.  

The committee is made up of Gosselin, State Court Judge B.E. Roberts, prosecutors, clerks, law enforcement, court administrators and Dr. Pamela Logan from the Department of Public Health. 

The judicial emergency is set to expire at 11:59 p.m. Aug. 14. 

Four employees in the Hall County Clerk of Courts’ Office, including Clerk of Courts Charles Baker, tested positive for COVID-19 last month. Baker subsequently instructed all employees to get tested for the virus. 

Court administrator Jason Stephenson said no other offices in the courthouse have mandated testing. All of the employees in the clerk’s office who tested positive in June have recovered. 

Baker has implemented “a strategy that divides his clerk staff into two shifts, with different shifts rotating in and out of the office every two days so that any future exposure is limited,” Stephenson wrote in an email. 

There is a 14-day mandated quarantine period if an employee is exposed to coronavirus. Stephenson said several offices have employees working remotely now because of that policy. 

“We don’t presently have anyone sick or isolating because of a positive test,” Stephenson wrote in an email. 

People entering the courthouse are screened for symptoms, tested with a thermometer and required to wear a mask.