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District courts in District 6 — Bertie, Halifax, Hertford and Northampton — will remain open under a modified plan as positive COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

This plan will include, among other things, strict enforcement of social distancing at six-feet apart, the use of KN95 or N95 masks by court personnel in all common areas of the courthouse, limit the number of cases on the dockets, limit foot traffic into the courtrooms, and use of audio/video equipment for hearings as much as possible.

Chief District Court Judge Brenda Branch said, according to health advisors, “there is a rise of COVID cases in our area and there is still a portion of our population that is unvaccinated or do not wear masks.”

Additionally, Branch said, “Other entities, organizations and businesses including schools, are still open, requiring many of us to interact with vaccinated, unvaccinated, and unmasked citizens on a daily basis. Therefore, a shutdown will not suffice, as this is a continuous situation that requires a long-term sustainable plan to prevent any unnecessary long term backlog or delay of court response to our citizens.”

Branch said she has been advised by local health departments that the N95 masks provide the optimum protection against the viruses. “Therefore, with a modified plan in place and the use of these masks as much as possible, we should be able to minimize the spread of the virus in our organization. We ask each department head to please notify other department heads as soon as possible if there is exposure in their department. We anticipate shutdowns only in the event of severe personnel shortages.”