New Covid-19 testing procedures are now in place at courts across BC. Information about Covid-19 exposures at courthouses is now available to the public. Public health guidance has also been issued for courthouses during the pandemic.
I am really glad that action has been taken at last. I have been concerned for my safety and the safety of my fellow court users for a while now. While long overdue, this is an important and necessary step to protect the public, court staff, officials and lawyers from both sides of the courtroom.
What are the Covid-19 testing procedures?
Following concerns about the situation at BC courts, the new protocol provides “timely and coordinated” communication of Covid-19 testing. The protocol includes a public health guidance document that has been issued to courthouses. The document provides a “hierarchy” of infection prevention and exposure control measures that can be implemented. They range from public health measures, like testing and contact tracing, to personal protective equipment, such as gloves and masks.
The public health guidance also sets thresholds for the ordering of Covid-19 testing for people scheduled to be in a courthouse. Covid-19 testing procedures will be available for people with symptoms indicative of the disease. No symptoms means no testing is required. This is great news. Testing is proving to be a powerful weapon in the fight against the virus.
The document also recommends the implementation of environmental measures at courts, such as using outdoor spaces where possible, physical barriers, facilitating social distancing and frequent cleaning and disinfection.
BC CDC webpage
In addition to the public health guidance, the BC Centre for Disease Control has created a webpage for Covid-19 exposure events and incidents at courthouses. The webpage lists any courthouse exposure alerts, notices of investigation of incidents and summaries of potential Covid-19 clusters.
The protocol establishes that the responsibility for courthouse incident investigations lies with the local health authority. Each regional health authority will also be responsible for sharing any incident investigations with the courts and the public in a timely manner.
In the event of group testing at a courthouse, the protocol says it is up to health authorities to communicate this to court users. Testing will also be put in place for people currently or scheduled to attend courts if they are experiencing Covid-19 symptoms. The results of the testing will determine whether the court proceedings continue as scheduled.
The Covid-19 testing procedures at courts are long overdue, but I’m pleased that something has been done at last. Hopefully, they will be implemented well by courthouses and court users can be confident about their safety.