On Friday, NC Governor Roy Cooper lifted gathering limits and social distancing requirements in all settings and the indoor mask mandate for most settings.
Today, Johnston County Chief Resident Superior Court Judge Tom Lock and Chief District Court Judge Paul Holcombe signed an Amended Administrative Order that will continue to require face coverings in courtroom settings at the Johnston County Courthouse.
According to the two page order, “…there have been several cases of COVID-19 among officers and staff of the Johnston County Courthouse within the past two weeks, and that the threat of COVID-19 remains an issue of concern to those working in the courthouse.”
The order continues the requirement all persons, including attorneys, law enforcement officers, court staff, litigants, and members of the public wear medical-style face masks or coverings in court and in all hallways and waiting areas adjacent to courtrooms.
A presiding judge has the discretion to allow trial participants inside a courtroom to remove their face masks while speaking, or actively engaged in a trial or hearing, including attorneys, witnesses, jurors, judges and other persons addressing the court.
Bailiffs and courthouse security can still require a person entering the courthouse or courtroom to remove a mask, if the mask poses a security concern or impedes the identification of the individual.
The order does not apply to any person who has a legitimate physical, medical or behavioral condition or disability exempting them from the requirement of wearing a mask. However, those individuals must provide documentation or proof of their condition or disability.
In addition, social distancing shall be maintained to the extent reasonably possible at all times.
The Order only applies to courtrooms, adjacent hallways and waiting areas, and not other offices within the courthouse.
We reached out to Johnston County Manager Rick Hester today asking if county officials are considering any changes in their face mask requirements following the May 14th guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that fully vaccinated individuals can safely do most activities without wearing a mask. Hester said county leaders have not yet discussed any changes in their mask requirements for visitors or employees inside the courthouse.