Luzerne County officials keep eye on pandemic, suspend court proceedings

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Luzerne County officials say they are keeping a close eye on the number COVID-19 cases in the county — which have been on the increase in recent weeks.

Luzerne County officials took extraordinary steps Thursday in an effort to keep people safe. Some Luzerne County officials say it’s case of “back to the future.” The courthouse has limited its operations. Trials have been cancelled until January. Most hearings have been cancelled until November 30th.

The county closed the district attorney’s office, public defender’s office and central court after three county employees — who deal with criminal matters — tested positive for COVID-19. Those offices will be closed until November 30. Many county offices have also been impacted.

“After discussions with President Judge Mike Vough the decision was made that we better err on the side of safety here we are going to limit operations here at the courthouse,” Luzerne County Manager Dave Pedri said.

Pedri tells Eyewitness News that the recent surge of COVID-19 cases in Luzerne county. And the recent discovery that three county employees tested positive for COVID-19 moved the county to restrict operations.

“Almost everything the county does has an online or mail in component, so before you come to the courthouse to do business, check to see if that’s available to you. If you do want to come to the courthouse, we are still open for business. We do have a skeleton crew that continues to work in the courthouse. All essential personnel are here,” Pedri said.

President Judge Michael Vough issued an order halting all hearings at the courthouse and at the county’s 16 district magistrate courts until November 30th. All trials have been postponed until January 31st.

Emergency hearings will be held for cases like protection from abuse orders and domestic violence cases. Pedri urges everyone in the county to take COVID-19 safety measures.

“I think every single individual in the entire county community needs to take personal responsibility for their own actions, needs to make sure we wear masks, social distance, good hygiene,” Pedri said.

Attorney Brian Corcoran comes to the Luzerne County Courthouse quite a bit. He says COVID-19 is always on his mind.

“You have to watch out. I wash my hands frequently. I always wear a mask. I try to keep my distance from people. Every time I come into the courthouse, coming or going, I wash my hands,” Corcoran said.

Also shutdown are the active adult senior centers in Luzerne County. 17 all together. Pedri says that food can be ordered on Monday for pick-up by those senior citizens who go to the centers for lunch.

The COVID-19 restriction orders do not impact any emergency operations such as the county 911 center or E.M.A. (Emergency Management Agency).

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