East Hampton Town and Sag Harbor Village justice courts have been closed temporarily after an employee who works in both tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday.
Lisa R. Rana, who serves as justice in both courts, said the East Hampton court building was closed “out of an abundance of caution” on Tuesday. Village court, which conducts business in a small office and in the the meeting room at the Sag Harbor Village Municipal Building, are also temporarily closed, though the building itself remained open.
Both courts will reopen on Monday. “This pause is going to be for four business days just to assess for safety purposes,” Justice Rana said, a small inconvenience to ensure everyone’s health and safety.
The East Hampton courthouse and the Municipal Build have already undergone an enhanced cleaning, she said. But, the closure also provides time for all staff members to get tested and for them to contact those who have visited the court over the past two weeks.
Approximately 125 individuals in East Hampton Town and 30 in Sag Harbor need to be or have been notified, Justice Rana said. Traffic through the courts has been greatly reduced even since the court reopened its doors May 29.
Both courts follow the New York State Office of Court Administration’s COVID-19 protocols, and while there are some in-person proceedings, both courts have been limited to 25% capacity and there have been staggered court calendars.
In Sag Harbor, Justice Rana had implemented a visitors log book. While that did not exist in East Hampton, she said staff have compiled information through the court calendars and receipt books for paid tickets and fines. Going forward, there will be a log book in East Hampton Justice Court, as well. Staff are directing anyone who may have been in the courts over the past two weeks to contact the state’s COVID-19 hotline or visit the Department of Health website.
Also based on OCA guidelines, all employees received temperature screenings when they reported for work. The employee who tested COVID-positive was asymptomatic and only got a test because a fellow employee reported feeling ill. That employee, however, tested negative twice, according to Justice Rana.
All of the employees in both courts are undergoing testing voluntarily, she added. So far all tests that have been returned have shown employees do not have the virus. Justice Rana also said she tested negative.
Also, all arriving visitors are asked whether they were exposed to COVID-19 and subject to temperature screenings. The court has also placed markings in six-foot increments on sidewalks and inside by the clerk’s office to enforce social distancing.
“Measures that we took have worked to the extent that you can protect during the pandemic,” Justice Rana said. “This is exactly why we have all of these procedures and process in place.”
Justice Rana said the courts were not required to close because of the potential exposure, but she took these steps as a precaution. “It was the smart and conservative thing to do,” she said. “We really have taken some extraordinary measures to be at safe possible,” she said, adding that she has a responsibility for “not just the safety of my staff, it’s the safety of every person that walks in the building.”