Santa Barbara County officials on Thursday limited the number of court personnel required to work, and will suspend visitation at the Main Jail starting Saturday in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, according to officials.
To date, no cases of coronavirus have been identified in Santa Barbara County, according to Public Health Department officials.
The decision to limit court personnel followed a meeting between members of the legal community and presiding Superior Court Judge Michael Carrozzo, who encouraged all judges to work with attorneys and litigants to postpone jury trials, said spokesman Darrel Parker.
Leaders in the justice system are urged to work collaboratively to take reduction measures -- including limiting court appearances by inmates, jurors and court personnel -- which judges will consider on a case-by-case basis, Parker said.
Measures include using video appearances for in-custody defendants, teleconferencing between parties and allowing defendants to appear through their attorneys of record in criminal cases.
All attorneys are being asked to work together to settle matters and reach agreements to continue cases if necessary, Parker added.
Electronic filing has been established for criminal justice partners to reduce access to the clerk's office.
Jurors who are ill should contact the Jury Division through the online portal or by calling 805-882-4530 for South County or 805-614-6464 for North County, Parker said.
People with fines are directed to pay them over the phone or via the court's web-based payment system available at https://www.sbcourts.org/gi/covid19.shtm.
Janitorial staff have increased the frequency and intensity of cleaning, paying particular attention to door knobs, hand railings and work surfaces.
Hand sanitizers have been placed throughout courthouses and jury assembly rooms.
Additional approaches to reduce people coming to the courthouses are being discussed, Parker added.
County correctional facilities, including the Lompoc Federal Correctional Facility, are taking measures to reduce exposure to coronavirus out of an abundance of caution, officials said.
The Lompoc prison is operating normally, but has implemented a comprehensive approach to manage the coronavirus response, including screening, treatment and prevention measures among inmates and staff, according to Bureau of Prison officials.
The decision to suspend visitation at the County Main Jail was "difficult," said spokeswoman Raquel Zick.
"The Sheriff's Office values visitation as an essential part of rehabilitation, but at this time we must make difficult decisions in order to protect the health and wellness of all who live in, work in, and visit our correctional facility," Zick said.
In addition, Sheriff's officials are in the process of ordering non-alcohol hand sanitizer but are competing for a limited supply, Zick said. In the meantime, hand washing with soap is encouraged.
Sheriff's patrol deputies have also been equipped with appropriate personal protective equipment and are responding along with EMTs to emergency medical calls involving suspected coronavirus cases, Zick said.
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