Limited access to the Fayette County Courthouse and associated buildings will remain in effect until at least Jan. 22, according to a judicial emergency declared by Chief Judge Thomas H. Ewing.
The emergency will result in, among other things, the postponement of the January session of the Fayette County grand jury, which was to start on Jan. 12.
Through Jan. 22, county residents are urged to handle all business by phone, fax or email until further notice.
Judge Paul M. Blake Jr., then the chief judge, originally declared a judicial emergency for Dec. 28, 2020, through Jan. 8, limiting access to county buildings and outlining methods by which residents could do their business. Several Covid-19 cases had been diagnosed among county employees at the time.
Since then, according to an administrative order issued by Ewing on Jan. 8, more court personnel have tested positive for the Covid-19 virus or have been quarantined by the Fayette County Health Department. Also, there have been positive cases in the Fayette County Public Defender's Office, which led to temporary closure of that office.
Recent conversations involving the two judges and Fayette County Health Officer Dr. Anita Stewart resulted in the decision to continue conducting county business with limited access in order to protect the health, safety and welfare of court personnel and the general public.
The January grand jury was postponed and rescheduled to begin at 9 a.m. on Feb. 9.
In addition, January petit jury orientation, which was to start on Jan. 15, has been moved to Feb. 12. It will be divided into two sessions to ensure proper social distancing in the courtroom, the order read. Sessions will be as follows:
• Orientation for Panel A of the January 2021 petit jury will start at 9 a.m. on Feb. 12.
• Orientation for Panel B of the January 2021 petit jury will start at 1 p.m. on Feb. 12.
The order gave additional guidance for magistrates regarding accepting misdemeanor guilty pleas via video, as well as guidance for magistrates regarding defendants under home confinement or working with community corrections at the Fayette County Day Report Center.
Unless a future administrative order is necessary, normal court functions, court hours and work hours will resume on Jan. 25, according to the order.
Fayette County elected officials and department heads are continuing to oversee amended staffing schedules to maximize safety, a memo from the Fayette County Commission noted.
The Fayette County Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building is closed, but a notice on the door indicates a manner through which individuals can obtain limited access.
The Fayette County Office of Emergency Management, 911 center and fire coordinator office remain in normal operations mode.
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Following is a list of county department numbers:
• Fayette County Health Department — 304-574-1617
• County commission — 304-574-4290
• Prosecuting attorney — 304-574-4230
• Assessor — 304-574-4242
• County clerk — 304-574-4227
• Floodplain/building permits — 304-574-4320
• County park — 304-574-1111
• Office of emergency management — 304-574-3285
• 911 non-emergency — 304-574-3590
• Sheriff’s department — 304-574-4216
• Tax office — 304-574-4219
• Circuit clerk — 304-574-4213
• Magistrate — 304-574-4279
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