17th Circuit Court
17th Circuit Court - COVID-19 Response
On Monday, November 16th, the State Court Administrative Office set new standards and guidance for the Court’s Return to Full Capacity. Among other parameters, they are requiring courts in phase 2 to go back to phase 1 if there is a 14 day increase in cases in the county, and if the test positivity rate has a 7 day average positivity rate of 15% or higher. Kent County and the 17th Circuit Court meet both of these criteria, so we will be going back to phase 1 immediately. Since our last time at phase 1, we have learned many things and adopted many technological changes (Zoom, more laptops, etc..). We have also made sure with scheduling and other methods, staff can safely maintain social distancing while at work, and can work from home when necessary. These steps are specific to our office workers, and not those in juvenile detention which have their own protocols. If you have questions about in-person office time and schedules, please contact your supervisor.
The following operational changes will be effective beginning Wednesday, November 18:
In order to facilitate the business of the court, the court is enacting the following measures related to court proceedings:
- Proceedings will be conducted virtually to the maximum extent possible, consistent with Administrative Order No. 2020-6.
- In-person proceedings are limited to those where there is a statutory or constitutional right that has not been waived.
- In the event that an in-person hearing must be held, (#2) that hearing will be limited to no more than ten people or any number that ensures six-foot social distancing at all times. Face coverings will be required in court in a manner consistent with the SCAO Return to Full Capacity Guide. They will/will not be provided by the court prior to entry.
- Offsite in-person visits with probationers and clients will be discontinued or limited to the greatest extent possible.
- Pursuant to MCR 8.110(C), members of the public or staff who refuse to wear required face coverings or adhere to social distancing requirements may be asked to leave the court facility.
- Any member of the public who is asked to leave the court facility must be offered an opportunity to conduct court business virtually, attend court proceedings virtually, file documents in an alternative manner, or confer with court administration to determine alternate arrangements for accessing the court.
In order to protect the health and safety of employees and the public, the following protections will remain in place:
- Employees will self-screen for COVID-19 symptoms. Employees who feel sick or have any COVID-19 symptoms will not report to work. Employees who feel sick or display symptoms at work will be sent home.
- To the extent possible, court employees who can work remotely will be allowed the opportunity to work remotely.
- Employees should wear face coverings in court facilities at all times unless six foot social distancing is guaranteed. The court has taken the following steps to ensure proper social distancing and employee safety:
- Placed physical barriers between workspaces that are not at least six feet apart.
- Marked the floor in common spaces to indicate six-foot intervals.
- Required employees to wear masks while in public spaces.
- Required employees handling mail to wear masks and gloves.
- Implemented staggered shifts of employees to reduce crowd size and the risk of people gathering at start and close times
- Employees will practice good hygiene through hand washing, frequent disinfecting of used items and surfaces, sneezing or coughing into a tissue or elbow, and avoiding touching their faces.
- Employees will not travel for nonessential court business.
- Quarantine and/or isolation requirements will be implemented consistent with the most current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and/or local public health officials.
- Court facilities have posted signage emphasizing proper handwashing.
- The court is following the CDC guidance on cleaning and disinfecting if the facility is exposed to COVID-19.
- The court has developed a contact tracing policy and is prepared to implement contact tracing procedures after receiving notification that the court facility has had confirmed exposure to COVID-19. These procedures will help the court identify individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19 and will identify exposure locations that need to be cleaned and disinfected pursuant to CDC guidelines.
We are also keeping the following measures in place for the public:
The public will be asked to self-screen using posted screening questions prior to entering the court building OR will be screened by court personnel or security prior to entering the court building. Screening questions will include, but are not limited to the following:
- Do you have a fever greater than 100.4 degrees?
- Do you have a cough or worsening cough (excluding chronic cough due to known medical reason)?
- Do you have shortness of breath? OR
- Do you have at least two of the following symptoms:
- Repeated shaking with chills
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- New loss of taste or smell
- Have you had any close contact in the last 14 days with someone with a COVID-19 diagnosis?
- Have you traveled internationally in the last 14 days?
Any individual responding “yes” to the screening questions will not be allowed to enter the courthouse until they can pass the screening questions. The court will accept documents in alternative ways of someone cannot enter the facility. All parties/people with questions should look to AccessKent.com for questions and contact information.
Remote hearings may be “livestreamed” on YouTube.