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COVID-19 exposure brings in-person court cases to a halt in Siskiyou County

Bill Choy
Mount Shasta Herald
The Siskyou County Courthouse

YREKA - Due to two positive COVID-19 cases in ancillary workers at the Siskiyou County Courthouse, the Siskiyou County courts are not hearing cases in person this week. In addition, District Attorney Kirk Andrus said three of his prosecutors have been under quarantine after exposure at different times on Nov. 2 and 3 to one of the workers who had tested positive.

Siskiyou County Presiding Judge Karen Dixon is scheduled to return from her quarantine on Monday, with the other judges who were exposed returning later in the week. As of Thursday, no one exposed had tested positive, Dixon said.

Every day this week and next week are being counted as holidays in order to suspend criminal justice activities in the county. The court got permission through an emergency order from chief justice of the California Supreme Court, Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye. The order runs until Nov. 19. 

Dixon said that the order was done to be safe and cautious; When the court found out about the positive cases, they quickly informed the county health department. Courtrooms and offices were thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

While there are no in-person court cases this week, the daily work of the court, attorneys and other workers continues.

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"We are well equipped to have our attorneys work remotely," Andrus said. "Our case management system is well-suited to giving them access to all of the information that they need to do their job."

Andrus said that his prosecutors are still able to prepare for litigation, review cases that are newly submitted, and have been meeting by video conference to discuss issues related to the current situation.

"I have been very impressed how much work are lawyers have accomplished working remotely," he said. "We have many complicated cases that we are working on right now."

Andrus said it would have been much more challenging if court was in session.

"In-court litigation is a very large time commitment for prosecutors,"  he said, "but the court quarantine this week has taken that responsibility and give us time to focus on other things."

On Thursday, Andrus said he expected each of the prosecutors’ quarantines to be ended in time for the felony calendar on Tuesday.

"We completely appreciate the need to be flexible and agile, with where we work, how we work, and also who handles different situations," Andrus said. "We joked about needing to have a ‘designated survivor’ in case everybody else gets infected or exposed. We have been very careful in our office to try to stay safe, but also to remain well organized and in constant communication."