by Lisa Backus | Mar 24, 2020 | CT News Junkie
(Updated 5:20 p.m.) A judicial marshal working in the Torrington courthouse has tested positive for COVID-19, according to state and union officials.
The marshal who was working in the control room in the basement of the courthouse at 50 Field St., Torrington, has not been to work since Friday, Judicial Branch officials said. His work area had no public access, the branch officials said.
He learned he tested positive for the disease which can cause fever, cough and difficulty breathing Tuesday, officials said.
“The employees with whom he was within six feet and spent more than 15 minutes have been instructed to contact their medical provider and to self-monitor at home for 14 days, consistent with the Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” said Rhonda Hebert, spokeswoman for the Judicial Branch.
Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, the co-chair of the Judiciary Committee which has some oversight over the Judicial Branch was not told of the positive test, he said Tuesday afternoon.
State officials have been working to stop the spread of the disease which has killed 12 in Connecticut and thousands world wide. The number of people in the state who have tested positive for the disease was at 615 as of Tuesday afternoon, according to Gov. Ned Lamont.
It was unknown Tuesday morning when the marshal tested positive and when the last time that person was working in the courthouse or what possible exposure other offices within the courthouse, the public and prisoners had with the marshal, said Joe Gaetano, President of the IBPO Local 731 which represents the state’s judicial marshals.
Court officials believed the exposure to others was “minimal” and that the marshal came in contact with “less than 10 people,” Gaetano said Tuesday morning.
At that point Gaetano had no idea on what steps would be taken to clean the courthouse or deal with staff and the public who may have been exposed.
Hebert said in an email Tuesday afternoon that the Judicial Branch “takes the safety of its employees and members of the public seriously.” The area where the marshal worked has been cleaned and disinfected and all Judicial Branch locations throughout the state were being “cleaned nightly.”
Disinfecting was also occurring throughout the day, including “high touchpoint” areas, Hebert said.
No official announcement was made as Judicial Branch officials said Tuesday that marshals will not be required to take the temperature of those who are transported for arraignments at courthouses as previously stated on Monday.
Gaetano received a flurry of reports Monday that marshals were now being asked to take temperatures to determine if prisoners could possibly be infected with the virus which has sickened more than 300,000 people worldwide including 415 state residents.
The marshals were not given any policy guidelines or protective equipment when they were told they would be required to take temperatures, Gaetano said.
According to Hebert, as of Tuesday, the marshals will not be required to take temperatures but marshals assigned to prisoner transport will be screened at roll call for “abnormal temperatures.”
Prisoners who exhibit “any symptoms of COVID-19” and have a fever will be screened by medical personnel prior to “transport to a correctional facility” and if there is any question about a prisoner’s health, the receiving facility will be contacted before the person is transported, Judicial Branch officials said.
Gaetano was told that the branch was considering the measures but was not formally notified of the new policies, he said.
Judicial Branch officials had not announced that a marshal has tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus when the email explaining that the plan to require marshals to take inmate temperatures had been shelved.
Gaetano had been pushing for more personal protective equipment including masks for marshals, but had been told that guidelines for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention didn’t recommend them for those who were not sick.
“My idea is let’s be a little pro-active,” Gaetano said. “The recommendations are changing daily, we need to know what people are supposed to do.”
Prisoners are transported to courthouses and prisons throughout the state by marshals in a centralized unit in New Haven, Gaetano said. It is possible that the transport teams could interact with prisoners who are showing symptoms of the disease which include fever, cough and difficulty breathing, he said.
“My thought is at this point that we should err on the side of caution,” he said. “Maybe a mask is enough for someone to have piece of mind.”