County eases COVID-19 safety protocols at courthouse

By Buck Collier, Special Correspondent
Posted 6/24/20

HERMANN — Three weeks after adopting a strict set of protocols to protect the courthouse against the coronavirus, the Gasconade County Commission has relaxed its rules, keeping in line with the …

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County eases COVID-19 safety protocols at courthouse


HERMANN — Three weeks after adopting a strict set of protocols to protect the courthouse against the coronavirus, the Gasconade County Commission has relaxed its rules, keeping in line with the move into Phase 2 of Missouri’s recovery during the pandemic.

The tight security measures enacted June 1 that included screening everyone coming into the courthouse and limiting entry into and exit from the building at specific doors, among other moves, five days a week have been scaled back to be in place only on the days cases are taken up in either of the two Circuit Court rooms.

The relaxed rules actually took effect Monday, June 14, reflecting Gov. Mike Parson’s declaration that Missouri has entered Phase 2 of the recovery. How long Phase 2 will be in effect is unclear.

Easing the local protocols at the courthouse came after the various elected officials were quickly polled Thursday morning. That survey showed they favored relaxing the protocols. What that means is visitors to the courthouse on days other than court days will not be screened at the main entrance.

Until last week, all people entering the courthouse — employees as well as those arriving for court or to conduct business — were stopped by a deputy sheriff who checked everyone’s temperature and advised that masks were to be worn while inside.

Associate Commissioners Jerry Lairmore, R-Owensville, and Jim Holland, R-Hermann, took up the matter of the protocols after it was raised by Sheriff Mark A. Williams in an email to County Clerk Lesa Lietzow. In light of the governor’s declaration, the sheriff questioned the need for the stringent rules on non-court days. In his email, Williams said he “sees no reason to subject” courthouse employees to the temperature check on the days when the courts are not in session.

Lairmore and Holland, who suggested the survey of elected officials, were conducting county government business without Presiding Commissioner Larry Miskel, R-Hermann, who was on vacation. Lairmore served as acting presiding commissioner for the second consecutive week.

In addition to employees using other doors to enter the courthouse, easing the rules also means the building will not be locked down from noon to 1 p.m. That practice began on June 1, primarily to allow the deputy sheriff to take a lunch hour each day. Now, as before, county government offices are open during the noon hour with office workers taking staggered lunch breaks and allowing business to be conducted during that hour.

Further, protection against the spread of the virus comes in the form of half doors that have been installed on most of the offices to provide social distance space between a customer and office staff. Some offices, however, are unable to conduct business in such a manner and the half-door measure is not an option.

As for the wearing of masks, courthouse personnel on June 1 were given the option — at the discretion of a supervisor — of taking off their mask while at their desks. Now, masks are not as likely to be seen on employees as they move about the courthouse.

The Circuit Courts — Divisions 1 and 2 and  Associate Circuit Court Division 4 — usually are in session only a few days a month. Divisions 1 and 2 normally are busy one day each a month while Division 4 might be in session several days a month. On those days, the more stringent rules will be in effect.


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