No fevers allowed: Temperature checks begin at NYC courthouses
Brooklyn judges: Like face masks, temp checks are small inconvenience for the greater good
Before passing through the metal detectors at the entrance to New York City courthouses, visitors Monday encountered two new precautions: temperature checks and questionnaires designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in reopened court buildings.
“In anticipation of eventual opening for in-person litigation, the court is implementing the most vigorous possible procedures to ensure the safety of all persons using our courthouse,” said Hon. Lawrence Knipel, the administrative judge of the Supreme Court, Civil Term.
“This includes mandatory temperature checking, face masks and hand cleansing,” Justice Knipel continued. “Social distancing will also be strictly enforced throughout the building. Plexiglass shields are also being installed. Initially very few matters will require personal appearances.”
On Monday morning, court officers began using forehead scanners to check the body temperatures of all non-court personnel, according to the Office of Court Administration.
Officers wearing personal protective equipment and face shields point a thermometer, manufactured by the corporation Yuwell, at visitors’ foreheads and record their temperature before the visitors are allowed to proceed to the metal detectors and pass into the rest of the court building.
Anyone with a temperature above 100 degrees Fahrenheit is prohibited from entering the building, OCA said. The screening protocols, which took effect Monday morning, apply to all visitors, including litigants, attorneys, witnesses, spectators, law enforcement officers, prisoners and vendors.
“As always, the health and safety of our workforce and of the public remain the top [Unified Court System] priorities as we return to courthouse and office settings around the state in coming days and weeks,” said OCA Executive Director John McConnell and Chief of Operations Nancy Barry in a memo to chief clerks June 30.
Court personnel are not subject to the temperature checks, though a clerk in Queens Criminal Court tested positive for COVID-19 after returning to work last week following a trip to Texas.
Each court visitor must also respond to three questions before passing through the metal detectors.
Court officers specifically ask whether, within the last 14 days, the visitor has had a fever, cough, shortness of breath or any flu-like symptoms.
The officers also ask whether the visitor has tested positive for COVID-19 or been in close contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19, and whether they have returned from traveling abroad or to a state with a rising rate of COVID-19.
Justice Matthew D’Emic, the administrative judge of the Supreme Court, Criminal Term, likened the temperature checks to wearing face masks in public — a small potential nuisance that could make a big impact on public health.
“Our first and primary concern in expanding court operations is the safety of the public and the people who work here,” Justice D’Emic said. “To that end, masks are required and visitors will be asked about possible exposure to risk factors for the virus. In addition, each person entering the courthouse will have his or her temperature taken. Again, like the mask, it is a small inconvenience geared toward the common good of protecting against spread of the virus.”
An executive order issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month requires people to self-quarantine for two weeks if they have traveled to New York from states with spiking COVID rates.
Anyone who answers yes to one of the three questions will be prohibited from entering the courthouse.
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