MORGANTOWN — The Monongalia County Justice Center will be closed for non-essential business this week after two employees tested positive for COVID-19.
Monongalia County Commission President Ed Hawkins said that was enough to follow in the footsteps of the Kanawha County, which also shut down its courthouse for a week after a positive COVID-19 test.
The temporary shutdown will last at least through Friday and is subject to extension.
The Monongalia County Bar Association advised its members to self-quarantine or get tested if they interacted with employees of the Monongalia County Prosecutor’s Office or appeared in Chief Judge Cindy Scott’s Courtroom.
Hawkins did not say which offices the positive employees worked in.
“Because of the amount of traffic in and out of the Justice Center, including various offices and courtrooms, it is difficult to determine the risk of contracting COVID-19, as there are many variables including mask usage and distancing,” Dr. Lee B. Smith, Monongalia County Health Department executive director and county health officer said. “Therefore, it is the advice of Monongalia County Health Department that individuals who were present in the Justice Center on Thursday, July 16, and Friday, July 17, may have had an exposure and therefore may need to self-monitor for symptoms. People who develop symptoms, under our advisement, should be tested.”
Hawkins said the commission found out about the positive tests on Saturday and spent two hours on a conference call with the involved parties, including state supreme court Chief Justice Tim Armstead.
“The Monongalia County Commission is taking this measure in consultation with the Monongalia County Circuit Court, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, and the Monongalia County Health Department to ensure that our employees as well as the general public are safeguarded to the maximum extent possible,” a press release said.
The justice center is home to the county’s circuit, magistrate and family courts, the circuit and magistrate clerk’s offices, the county prosecutor’s office, day report center and probation.
According to a Monday memo by Scott, the Circuit Clerk and Magistrate Clerk offices will both be open for filings and can be reached by phone.
Magistrate Court will also continue to address felony preliminary hearings, bond considerations, domestic violence protective orders, personal safety orders, criminal arraignments and search warrants, according to Scott.
Family Court is conducting video hearings and parties should contact their assigned judge to determine the status of those hearings, the memo said.
All Circuit Court matters have been postponed and will be rescheduled.