More court hearings handled remotely amid virus outbreak
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — More court hearings are being handled over video conference in Douglas County because of a coronavirus outbreak at the jail in Nebraska’s most populous county.
Inmates who test positive for the COVID-19 virus or have been near people with the virus aren’t being transferred to the courthouse for routine hearings, officials say.
“We’re not going to bring them over and spread it to the courthouse,” Douglas County District Court Administrator Doug Johnson said.
Thirteen correctional officers and six inmates recently tested positive, Corrections Director Mike Myers said. A total of 46 employees, 59 inmates and two contractors have tested positive at the jail, which houses nearly 1,200.
Presiding Judge Horatio Wheelock said judges are doing as many hearings by video conference as possible in Douglas County District Court. The number of video hearings has steadily increased to 331 in July, up from April’s 288.
State law allows most hearings to be conducted remotely, but trials must be conducted in person. Johnson said most of the trials scheduled for August have been either delayed or resolved.
Nebraska’s online virus tracker showed Wednesday that the state has had 27,178 cases of coronavirus and 332 deaths since the outbreak began. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Nebraska has risen over the past two weeks from 206.86 new cases per day on July 21 to 293.86 new cases per day on Aug. 4.