Illustration of coronavirus. Photo: U.S. Army. Public domain. Illustration of coronavirus. Photo: U.S. Army. Public domain.

An employee who worked in Miami-Dade Circuit Judge William Altfield’s criminal courtroom 6-2 at the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building on March 10 and 11 has tested positive for COVID-19, according to a press release Tuesday.

The court has advised anyone who visited the courtroom on those days to watch for a fever, cough or difficulty breathing, and to self-isolate and seek medical advice if they develop symptoms.

The employee’s name and condition has not yet been disclosed.

The news follows an order from Miami-Dade Circuit Chief Judge Bertila Soto suspending all non-emergency proceedings until March 27.

Late Monday night, Soto ordered all staff who are able to work from home to do so through March 27.

The closure does not apply to emergency or “mission critical” matters, which include first appearances in criminal cases, Baker Act and substance abuse hearings, juvenile shelter and detention hearings, and emergency petitions for temporary injunctions.

Presiding judges still have discretion to set emergency hearings, while trials will continue if they started last week before the Florida Supreme Court issued an order suspending them.

Detained defendants will not have to appear for arraignments, which will continue unless there is no written plea. Cases will be set for trial after a written plea is entered.

All other court proceedings will rescheduled.

The shutdown may be extended based on advice from public health and other government officials.

The decision follows a Broward Circuit Court move late Friday to close all courthouses in the county, which was Florida’s hotspot for COVID-19 cases.

All Florida counties suspended trials for two weeks, and Palm Beach County went a step further by closing on Fridays from March 27 to May 1. Courts will be open all other days.

Of 173 coronavirus cases reported statewide late Tuesday, 43 were in Broward County, 32 in Miami-Dade County and nine in Palm Beach County,

 

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