Starting this Monday, the first general sessions (criminal) court week in South Carolina since the pandemic started will be conducted at the Hillcrest Square Judicial Center in Laurens, County Council learned at their meeting this week.
Magistrate’s Court is moving to The Ridge to make room for the state’s criminal court to proceed, with social distancing and constant cleaning. The first order of business will be to bring in and qualify a jury pool.
“This virus is real and very active,” Laurens County Emergency Management Director Joey Avery told the council (as of July 27, there are/have been 1,131 infections in Laurens County). “We are making efforts to limit the virus - masks, sanitizer, avoid touching your face, stay home if you are sick, avoid close contact with people who are sick, and don’t shake hands.”
There were 387 COVID-19 tests administered at the most recent screening at Clinton High School and 483 tests administered at Gray Court-Owings Elementary School.
Laurens County maintenance will clean the Hillcrest courtrooms and will clean magistrate areas at The Ridge during August, “stretching thin” the cleaning crews, the council was told. The County might obtain temporary part-time services for cleaning, the council was told. The Circuit Court will require sanitizing at every break in court activity and, if there is a trial, every time the jury goes out of the courtroom. Laurens County/Hillcrest has the capability of having two judges working at the same time processing cases.
Records of all expenses will be kept so the county can apply for state and federal COVID-19 expense-relief money.
The Laurens County Sheriff’s Office will provide court security at Hillcrest and at The Ridge.
Council unanimously approved a motion to allow hiring for cleaning as county officials deem appropriate at least through September.