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Hockley County will close public access to courthouse beginning Monday

The Hockley County Commissioners met in an emergency meeting Friday to determine procedures at the courthouse in reference to the COVID-19 health emergency.

Sharla Baldridge, Hockley County Judge, recommended closing the courthouse and courthouse annex to the public to the commissioners in Friday’s meeting. The county’s second case of COVID-19 was confirmed Thursday evening. 

Commissioners agreed with Baldridge’s recommendation and spoke with District Judge Pat Phelan regarding the possibility. Judge Phelan said the governor has told judges to cancel non-essential hearings and to host other hearings remotely. Judge Phelan said he was currently working on the process to establish the remote hearings.

Judge Baldridge said county employees would still be expected to come to work and that the county would post a list of each office and their phone numbers for members of the public to contact. Judge Baldridge said members of the public can contact each office and the elected official in that office can determine whether that transaction can be carried through.

The commissioners voted unanimously to follow through with the closure. Judge Baldridge said public access to the courthouse would be shut down beginning Monday and last through Friday, April 3, the end date of the governor’s executive order date, and it will be extended in accordance with the governor’s executive order.

Additionally, Hockley County Sheriff Ray Scifres said the jail has implemented new policies at the jail in regards to the local health emergency. Scifres said the jail has already shut down visitation at the jail, outside work and has been limiting movement within the jail. He said employees at the sheriff’s department have their temperature checked at the beginning and end of each shift.

Also, when subjects are arrested, Scifres said they will all be screened in the sally port before entering the jail. He said the jailers will take the arrested person’s temperature and do the normal medical screening with the two additional questions regarding COVID-19. He said if an arrestee meets the criteria, the officer will contact the jail and someone will meet them in the parking lot for a further screening. If medical personnel clear the person, they will be returned to the jail.

In reference to the new case of COVID-19, Baldridge said an investigation is ongoing and public information regarding any public facilities or contacts that person had would be made available soon.

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