Courthouse reopens with screening and masks

As part of reopening the Lake County Courthouse, visitors will be screened at this table in the lobby and provided with a mask if they do not have one.

With the Lake County Board of Commissioners wanting to get a sense of normalcy back for the community they voted on Tuesday, April 21, to reopen the Lake County Courthouse to the public, with screening protocols in place.

“We need to be leaders, we need to reopen with screening, I believe we need to do that,” said Lake County Commissioner Brad Winters.

The other Commissioners were in agreement about reopening the Courthouse, though there was disagreement over whether masks would should be required, or to leave that option up to each individual department.

While agreeing that the courthouse needed to be reopened Lake County Commissioner Mark Albertson was initially hesitant about the need to screen people and believed that having signs up telling people that if they are feeling sick, or have been sick the past 14 days to not enter the building. Though he could see the reasons behind the need for people to wear masks, he believed it should be a choice of the public.

Lake County Commissioner James Williams said there might be more than just a sign needed, though he was more open to the idea of leaving it to the individual person, whether there was a sign at the door or a person screening people when they enter. Williams wanted to leave it up to department heads on whether the public should be wearing masks when they go to a specific department. Charles Pike, veteran services head for Lake County, said that people should be wearing masks when coming to his department since a lot of the people he meets with are in the category that are most at risk to COVID-19.

“It is prudent to open the building and I definitely do want to have checks and balances on people’s rights and liberties,” Williams said.

Winters was confident that they had worked on flattening the curve and that social distancing has been working. Though screening people entering the courthouse would be wise and make not only the public feel safer, but those working in the courthouse feel safer as well.

Lake County Public Health Dir. Judy Clarke said that masks should be offered and Public Health has masks that could be provided. While masks are not a 100% guarantee against COVID-19, they are being required in other parts of Oregon and Clarke is of the opinion that any plans coming from the Governor’s office will require masks when businesses initially start reopening to customers.

“If we open the door the public will come in, the questions is how do we do it to protect the employees and allow the public to do their business in the courthouse,” said Winters.

Amongst the department heads many of them approved having masks available for people when they entered into the building after their screening was completed.

Wanting to find a solution that would be workable to both the Commissioners and the department heads, plus outlining any potential requirements from the Governor’s office about masks; because Clarke noted that it is easier to lift a restriction once it is in place, than to put a new restriction on something after people get used to it.

Winters was of the idea as a compromise that people will be screened when they enter into the building and it would be recommend that they wear a mask, and if they do not have a mask already then one will be provided for them from the stocks available from Public Health.

Albertson believed that wearing masks will help get Lake County quicker to the Phase II plan for regional reopening than other areas.

A part-time person, plus staff from other county departments when that person is on break, is screening people in the Courthouse lobby. People will be asked a series of questions, and then provided a mask if they do not have one. Also there is a limit of one person per office to maintain social distancing requirements. The Lake County Courthouse will be open its normal hours of Monday – Friday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

For more information call 541-947-6051.

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