Manitowoc courts reissuing mask mandate for in-person court proceedings

MANITOWOC, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Following the release of information by the State of Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the Manitowoc County Health Department detailing the resurgence of Covid-19 infections, including highly transmissible variants in Manitowoc County, Manitowoc courts will be moving back to a mandatory mask mandate for all in-person court proceedings.

The information was released by the health agencies in a report on Aug. 4 which revealed the steadily rising COVID-19 case numbers throughout Manitowoc, Wisconsin and the United States.

Officials say in an effort to combat the rise of cases and ensure the health and safety of litigants, attorneys, visitors, court staff, judges, and other individuals entering the Manitowoc County Courthouse, which houses the three branches of the Circuit Court and the commissioner’s courtroom, the Circuit Court of Manitowoc County will require face coverings in all courtrooms when more than one person is present, effective immediately.

The mandate will require all persons who are present in courtrooms, jury rooms, and other court-related confined spaces shall wear face coverings, unless a judge specifically determines on the record that it is necessary for a witness not to wear a face covering during the witness’s testimony in order for the judge or jury to weigh the witness’s credibility.

Local officials say that individuals are encouraged to bring cloth face coverings with them, but if the individual does not have one, a disposable face mask will be provided.

Masks are available in each courtroom and in the clerk of courts’ office.

Reports indicate that the courts will continue to operate as normal until further notice and expect no interruption to normal court business, including jury trials.

In addition to the mask mandate, any litigant, witness, attorney, or other participant in any court proceeding who is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should promptly notify their attorney and/or the court, who may authorize the use of Zoom or the telephone wherever possible.

Officials also report the use of Zoom for all hearings involving incarcerated individuals will continue whenever possible and appropriate to minimize the spread of infectious disease into and out of correctional institutions.

Courts will also continue to utilize live-streaming whenever possible and appropriate to ensure the public has continued access to court proceedings.

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