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Warren County court closes after positive COVID-19 tests

Posted at 8:27 PM, Oct 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-20 20:27:45-04

A Warren County Common Pleas Court has closed after two staff members have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the Journal-News reports.

The Warren County Common Pleas Court presided over by Judge Tim Tepe is expected to remain closed for several weeks.

“They have closed their offices and people are working from home during the next several weeks out of precautionary measures on their own part, not through us,” Warren County Health Commissioner Duane Stansbury said.

Tepe, who has expressed skepticism about precautionary measures such as masks, could not be reached for comment. Calls to the court were not returned.

On Tuesday, Tepe’s courtroom was locked. Signs on the doors to the court and a lounge where lawyers wait for hearings indicated they were closed. The other courts and the rest of the building remained open. They were scheduled to begin handling Tepe’s cases on Wednesday.

On Monday, Court Administrator Jennifer Burnside said Tepe’s case docket “was continued,” but did not respond to follow-up questions.

On Tuesday, Clerk of Courts Jim Spaeth said he had been told contact tracing done as a result of the two positive test results had indicated none of his employees had been exposed. He referred further questions to Burnside.

Stansbury confirmed the two cases in Tepe’s court after another work session Tuesday during which two county commissioners challenged steps taken to prevent spread of the virus and the state putting Warren County in Level 3, the red zone.

“When you look at these numbers, this is the worst situation Ohio has been in,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Friday afternoon in comments about statewide COVID-19 numbers during a stop in Cincinnati during which he took time to note the large number in southwest Ohio. “This is spiraling out of control.”

Stansbury said the red-zone designation was akin to “an early warning system that something might be going on.” He confirmed local cases most often stem from small family gatherings where masks weren’t worn or social distancing practiced.

County Commissioners Tom Grossmann and Dave Young emphasized the negative impact preventative measures ordered by the state have on businesses and others in the community.

Grossmann expressed skepticism about the value of masking and noted the small number of cases that have resulted in serious health problems.

“Almost everyone in Warren County has gotten better,” Grossmann said.

Grossmann couldn’t be reached to comment on the closing of Tepe’s court.

The Journal-Newsis a media partner of WCPO 9 News.