Delaware courts develop phased reopening plan, but set no hard dates
About two months after Delaware court buildings were closed to the public amid the coronavirus pandemic, officials have developed a phased reopening plan — but haven't yet set any hard dates.
On Friday, Delaware Supreme Court Chief Justice Collins J. Seitz announced the plan, which is divided into four phases.
Phase one, which the courts said it hopes to begin the week of June 8, will be a “soft opening” allowing attorneys and a limited number of other people who deal with the courts to return to the buildings.
Phase two will reopen court facilities to the public with limitations and safety precautions developed in phase one, and phase three will increase the number of people allowed in courtrooms and public areas adjacent to courtrooms and will allow the resumption of civil and criminal jury trials.
Phase four will "mark a return to full operations, though under a 'new normal' that may include maintaining certain safety procedures and an increased use of technology as established during the emergency and phased reopening period," the courts said.
Because the plan does not set any hard dates, Seitz will ultimately decide, based on advice from Dr. Alfred Bacon, a Delaware infectious disease expert who advises the judiciary, when the courts can enter each phase.
Seitz will also have the ability to revert to previous phases, should he deem it necessary for public health reasons.
"The move from phase to phase will be guided by medical experts," Seitz said. "If we find our procedures are not working or there is a second spike in COVID-19 cases we might have to slow our progress or step back a phase.
"The safety of the public and judicial branch employees will be our guide."
As part of phase one, the courts will enforce new safety protocols, including:
- Heightened screening at courthouse entrances.
- Temperature checks and COVID-19 questionnaires.
- Use of hand sanitizer.
- Wearing of masks.
- Following social distancing guidelines, including a four-person limit on elevators.
- Reduced occupancy in buildings and closure of public areas.
Many of the safety protocols introduced in phase one will remain in effect for the following phases, though the court building will slowly work toward increasing occupancy.
To view the plan in further detail, visit courts.delaware.gov/aoc/courtsreopeningplan.pdf.
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