Miami-Dade Circuit Court backtracked Thursday on COVID-19 restrictions loosened only three days before as daily coronavirus case counts hit new records in Florida.
The temporary break had little effect because courthouses under the Phase 1 and Phase 2 rules remained closed to in-person appearances with few exceptions.
Under the most restrictive Phase 1 standard set by Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady, remote hearings were encouraged but courts were effectively closed to the public and in-person appearances were considered “inadvisable” and “rare.”
Under the looser Phase 2 rules, “limited in-person contact is authorized for certain purposes and/or requires use of protective measures” based on a June 16 administrative order issued by Canady.
Safety precautions for court visitors under an order issued Monday by Miami-Dade Chief Judge Bertila Soto required face masks, social distancing, temperature checks and health screening questions at entrances.
Unfortunately, Florida COVID-19 cases boomed since then, including two days with over 5,000 new cases for the first time. Miami-Dade accounts for 25% of the state’s cases, and South Florida has 46% of the Florida tally.
Palm Beach County issued an order requiring masks to be worn in public places starting Thursday.
As current court restrictions stand, any large-scale reopening of state courts is off until late July, and South Florida federal trials have been delayed until at least Aug. 31.