Directive COVID-19 Pandemic: Health Safety Protocols for Members of the Public Entering Courthouses
Table of Contents
COVID-19 Pandemic; Health Safety Protocols for Members of the Public Entering Courthouses
- On July 29, 2020 the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) issued its Third Order Regarding Public Access to State Courthouses and Court Facilities (Third Order). This Order updates health safety protocols for members of the public to enter or remain in a courthouse. These requirements apply to litigants, attorneys, witnesses, jurors, law enforcement personnel, vendors, contractors, media, all other members of the public, as well as non-court personnel whose workplace is in a courthouse whenever they are in the courthouse but outside of their immediate place of work.
- As a result of the SJC’s Third Order and Trial Court Emergency Administrative Order 20-12 issued in response, the previous version of this directive issued on July 9, 2020 is amended to clarify whom it pertains to, to require compliance with the Governor’s Order instituting a 14-Day quarantine for travelers arriving in Massachusetts, and to add clarifying information concerning the applicability of the health screening question pertaining to COVID-19 testing. This directive supersedes the directive of the same title issued on July 9, 2020. Clarifying information concerning the applicability of the health screening question pertaining to COVID-19 testing is effective upon receipt, all other aspects of this directive are effective August 3, 2020 until further notice.
- All members of the public over the age of two are required to wear a mask or cloth face covering to gain access or to remain within a courthouse. While members of the public are expected to use their own mask, the Security Department shall maintain a supply of disposable masks at the public entrance that can be issued to court visitors if they do not possess one. Any member of the public who states they cannot wear a facemask for medical reasons will be referred to the appropriate courthouse Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) coordinator for resolution of the matter.
- Prior to a member of the public initiating the security screening process court officers and/or associate court officers conducting screening duties will ask court visitors the following health questions:
- Have you, a family member, or someone you live with tested positive for or been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last 14 days?
- Are you currently experiencing, or have experienced within the last three days symptoms of COVID-19?
- Have you or a family member been advised to self-quarantine by a health care provider within the last 14 days?
- Are you required to quarantine under the Governor’s Order for travelers arriving in Massachusetts?
- Officers are advised that not all travelers from out of state locations are affected by this Order. Current lower risk states where travel to Massachusetts is permitted without quarantine or COVID-19 testing can be found at https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-travel-order#lower-risk-states-. Persons having traveled from states identified as low risk are not excluded from entry into a courthouse.
- Are you awaiting COVID-19 test results, live with, or been in contact with someone that is?
- In the event an affirmative response is provided to question (e) the officer will ask if the test was sought in response to experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, having been in close contact with someone that was, or because they reside with someone who is awaiting test results due to potential COVID-19 illness or close contact with someone that was. Only persons meeting any of these criteria will be excluded from the courthouse in accordance with these procedures.
- Following satisfactory completion of the health screening questions an officer will use a handheld infrared thermometer, or other provided IR technology, to take the individual’s body temperature.
- Persons answering yes to any of the questions in paragraph 4, presenting with a body temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, or refusing to complete the health screening shall be denied access to a courthouse and the person will be encouraged to seek medical guidance. In those instances where an elevated body temperature (EBT) is the sole reason for denial of entry, retesting should be conducted after at least 10 minutes to confirm the EBT. In cases where a court user is denied entry the appropriate clerk’s office or other intended destination will be directly informed in order to avoid default or other adverse action against the individual. In addition, the person shall be advised to personally contact his/her attorney, the clerk’s office, or the intended destination (i.e. probation or other office) themselves to resolve or reschedule the matter. A courthouse phone listing will be maintained at the entry screening station to facilitate this process. The identity of any person denied entry into a courthouse due to a positive response to a health screening question or EBT will be entered into the log book maintained at the entry screening station along with the date and time of the incident, the name of the reporting officer, and a contact telephone number for the individual if compliant.
- Officers operating infrared thermometers or other issued IR technology shall familiarize themselves with operation of the equipment by reviewing related training materials posted to the Learning Management System (LMS) or otherwise provided.