WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Cases of coronavirus among members of the Luzerne County government and court system have prompted the closure of the courthouse.
For the third time in less than a week, a county employee has tested positive for COVID-19. Officials tell Eyewitness News they had no choice but to shut down most courthouse operations for the protection of other employees and the public.
“We are just like any other employer and their employees. Every now and then you get somebody sick,” Luzerne County Manager Dave Pedri said.
Civil arbitration hearings, mortgage diversionary proceedings, consumer debt diversionary proceedings, summary appeal hearings, tax appeal hearings, motor vehicle title proceedings, quiet title proceedings, Gagnon I Hearings for non-incarcerated defendents, Driving Under Influence Call of List, driver’s license appeal hearings and adoption proceedings will all need to be rescheduled to a later date. The courthouse is slated to be closed until August 3.
Based on CDC guidelines for COVID-19, the county has performed contact tracing and employees who came in contact with someone who tested positive was urged to quarantine for 14 days. Pedri says none of the infected employees or those in close contact have symptoms right now.
The closure of the courthouse comes just days after Judge William Amesbury and a sheriff’s deputy both tested positive for the virus. Their test results prompted the closure and deep cleaning of the the Penn Place county building on Monday. Areas where the deputy worked were also cleaned before officials got word of another positive test.
“Earlier today we had found out that a third county employee had tested positive for COVID. This is not something we take ligthly and based upon this we decided we have to restrict access to Luzerne County buildings again,” Pedri said.
The name of the court employee and the department in which they work are not being released. However, Eyewitness News has confirmed that twelve sheriff’s deputies have been sent home and told to self-quarantine for two weeks. That decision prompted Luzerne County President Judge Mike Vough to shutdown the court system.
“Sheriff’s deputies are intergral to our court proceedings and without them we can’t operate our court system,” Vough said.
Vough says nobody should let their guard down when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This whole drama of COVID-19 is a daily situation. We changed a lot of the things we do becuase of it. We closed now twice because of it to keep everyone safe,” Vough said.
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