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Byrn: Jackson County not providing promised COVID checks

Presiding judge says county has failed to hire medical screeners for planned courthouse reopening.

Jackson County Courthouse

Jackson County Courthouse. Photo by Scott Lauck

The presiding judge of the Jackson County Circuit Court expressed frustration Friday with unfulfilled promises made by Jackson County officials to supply medical professionals who would check temperatures and screen employees and citizens entering court buildings.

At the court’s monthly meeting, Presiding Judge David M. Byrn said the county has done some things well in preparing to reopen the county’s courthouses as the court expanded in-person proceedings on May 18, “and some things not so well.”

“The most glaring omission from my perspective, and rather egregious, is that we were told repeatedly that the county would have medical professionals at all of the doors to take temperatures of all staff members and the public that come into the building, and everyone would be asked a series of routine medical questions,” Byrn said.
That has not happened, he said, despite the county’s assurances to the court that those professionals would be in place for reopening.

Byrn said county officials previously indicated they might not have enough thermometers on hand. The court has notified county officials that the screeners could use thermometers from the juvenile detention center, but the county did not request to use them, Byrn said.

He added that he learned earlier this week that the county’s contract with Children’s Mercy to provide those medical professionals had not been signed.

“I can’t tell you the reason for that delay, but I can tell you it was contrary to what we were told for a couple of weeks leading up to this week,” he said.

Byrn said he was last notified that medical professionals would be at the courthouses on May 26. He said the court has made it clear that it expects the county to stand by its word.

“We’ve made it known to them that the expectation is for safety of us, our staff and the general public that they will have someone here taking temperatures and medical screenings starting on Tuesday,” he said.

Marshanna Smith, spokeswoman for the county, said in a statement that protecting the health and wellbeing of the public and staff is the county’s top priority.

“The County just recently acquired thermometers and is in the process of working to secure a contract with a provider to administer the temperature checks,” she said. “The County understands that some business must be conducted in person, but we strongly encourage residents to continue using services by phone, email, fax or regular mail when possible.”

Coronavirus crisis

This item is part of Missouri Lawyers Media's free coverage of how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the legal community.

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