Essential inmate visitation has been canceled due to health concerns surrounding COVID-19, according to a Friday press release from Sheriff Jim Neil.
Starting at 4:00 p.m. Friday, all in-person visitation will be canceled, including non-court ordered treatment, attorney visits and clergy. According to the release, all attorney visits will be conducted via telephone.
The release did not make clear how long the hold on visits will last.
Court officials in Hamilton County are prepping for the spread of coronavirus, including deferring jury duty for those who may be showing symptoms.
“I think if it’s happening worldwide, then it’s eventually going to happen here,” Common Pleas Judge Charles Kubicki told WCPO Wednesday night. “We at the courthouse as you know have a responsibility to administer justice, but we’re also concerned with public safety. So, we also have constitutional obligations. So, what we’re trying to do at this stage is to be proactive and take steps that we can to try and minimize the risks.”
Kubicki said those steps include changing the way jury duty looks for the time being.
“Rather than automatically just drag a bunch of people down as prospective jurors leave them in a small room waiting,” he said. “What we’re going to do is we’re going to try and set up some criteria on the website.”
Prospective jurors may have their service deferred if they’re 65 or older, have an autoimmune condition or are currently going through cancer treatment. Those criteria may soon include those currently experiencing fever, shortness of breath and cough.
At this time, court officials are looking into setting up a coronavirus information hotline, taking people’s temperatures and adding more cleaning crews to keep courthouse surfaces germ and virus free.
“Hitting all the rails, all the doors, elevator buttons, anything that anybody would naturally come in contact with, again just to minimize the risks,” he said.
The courthouse also seeks to eliminate non-essential court functions, like student tours, mock trials and continuing education courses.
In addition, hand sanitizer will be places in easy-to-find locations around the courthouse.
While Kubicki hopes to curb the spread of infection by collaborating with agencies across the county, officials are still trying to serve people with the due process they deserve.
“We’re in uncharted territory, because you’ve got these constitutional rights that we have to address and deal with so again we need to be proactive because we’re not in a position where we completely shut down like a school,” he explained.
Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil also banned visitors to the Justice Center this week to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
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Find more coronavirus/COVID-19 hotlines and resources below:
- Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 833-4-ASK-ODH
- See ODH’s COVID-19 resources here.
- State COVID-19 hotline: 1-800-722-5725
- See the Cabinet for Health and Family Services coronavirus resource site here.
- SDH Epidemiology Resource Center: (317) 233-7125 or (317) 233-1325 after hours, or e-mail email@example.com
- See more information for coronavirus in Indiana here.
What is coronavirus, COVID-19?
According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses are "a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
A novel coronavirus, such as COVID-19, is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.
COVID-19 was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and has now been detected in 45 countries across the globe, including in the U.S., according to the CDC.
The CDC reports the initial patients in China have some link to a large seafood and live animal market, indicative of animal-to-person spread. A growing number of patients, however, did not report exposure to animal markets, indicating the disease is spreading person-to-person.
What are the symptoms? How does it spread?
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death, according to the CDC. Symptoms can include fever, cough, shortness of breath.
The CDC said symptoms could appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. It is similar to the incubation period for MERS.
Spread of the virus is thought to be mainly from person-to-person. Spread is between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet). Spread occurs via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
According to the CDC, it could be possible for a person to get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, the CDC said.
The disease is most contagious when people are the sickest and showing the most symptoms.