COVID-19 restrictions eased at Rowan County Courthouse

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, July 6, 2021

SALISBURY — In one of his first moves as Rowan County Superior Court judge, Timothy Gould issued an administrative order Friday loosening COVID-19 protocols at the courthouse.

“With the guidance from the CDC, the lowering of metrics with COVID, I felt like now was the time to at least try to get back to normalcy to try to address these issues and get back to the efficient and effective administration of justice in Rowan County,” Gould said.

Lifting some of the restrictions, Gould said, will help the courthouse continue to cut down on a backlog of cases that was exacerbated by the pandemic.

Included in his order is an end to the mask mandate and social distancing requirements, the removal of certain plexiglass barriers inside the superior courtroom and the reopening of the courthouse’s Main Street entrance, which will occur July 12. Gould’s order is in line with advice issued by North Carolina Chief Justice Paul Newby, who previously lifted all imposed COVID-19 restrictions on the state’s judicial system.

While the courthouse has already been operating this way, Gould’s order makes it official that face coverings are no longer required in the courthouse. However, face coverings may still be worn “for the purpose of preventing the spread of, or personal protection against, COVID-19, or other infectious disease.” A person wearing a face covering can be asked to remove them by a judge, bailiff or courthouse security officer under certain circumstances, including when they are testifying or undergoing a security check. 

“Sometimes the judge, jury or a witness needs to be able to hear them or see their face,” Gould said.

Face coverings are still “strongly recommended” for unvaccinated individuals.

Superior Court will now be arranged with attorneys’ tables placed in the middle and all jurors seated in the designated jury box. Previously, jurors were spread out to other places in the courtroom to adhere to social distancing protocols. The plexiglass barrier enclosing the judge’s bench and the stand for testifying will be removed.

Although masks and social distancing are no longer required in most of the courthouse, entrants to the courthouse will still undergo a temperature check upon entering the building. The temperature check tunnel currently used on the Liberty Street entrance will remain in place. People who enter through Main Street will have their temperature checked via portable digital thermometers.

Signage will still be posted at entrances directing those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, those displaying COVID-19 symptoms and those who have possibly been exposed to someone with COVID-19 to not enter the building.

Even though Gould is loosening COVID-19 protocols at the courthouse, he is still encouraging those entering the building to be mindful of the ongoing pandemic.

“While returning to normalcy is important to us all, and the proper administration of justice is paramount, the threat of COVID-19 is not yet fully behind us,” Gould said. “We all must continue to keep our safety, the safety of our families, and the safety of our fellow citizens in mind.”

Gould said he will continue to monitor COVID-19 pandemic and adjust the order if needed.

Gould was recently appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper to fill the seat vacated by Anna Mills Wagoner, who retired in May. Gould was already officially sworn into office, but will be ceremoniously sworn in on Friday at 2 p.m.

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About Ben Stansell

Ben Stansell covers business, county government and more for the Salisbury Post. He joined the staff in August 2020 after graduating from the University of Alabama. Email him at ben.stansell@salisburypost.com.

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