News3 News Now Investigators


Employees at Douglas County Court raise concerns about COVID-19 case handling there

Posted at 6:10 PM, Jul 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-04 14:36:55-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Two Douglas County court employees told 3 News Now Investigators they believe court supervisors dropped the ball on protecting the public from the coronavirus last week.

State Court Administrator Corey Steel told 3 News Now earlier this week that two employees tested positive, but the public was at low risk.

A positive test was discovered on June 25, and some court employees who chose to be tested because of proximity to that individual were told to return to work the next day, before knowing the results of the tests, according to the two employees.

Steel said three people were told to stay home, pending test results.

"Employees that did not meet the Douglas County Health Department’s guidance criteria for isolation or quarantine and did not exhibit symptoms were expected to return to work," Steel wrote in a statement.

One of the employees who returned to work while waiting for a test result was a cashier working with the public, the employees we spoke with said.

Later, the cashier's test returned positive. The two employees believed the public should have been notified of the individual's position earlier because they work with the public, even if they have limited contact through a barrier.

Steel confirmed in a statement that the second positive case was a cashier who chose to be tested voluntarily.

The cashiers work behind Pexiglass windows with a speaker.

"This barrier was part of the renovation and construction project to eliminate any contact with the public. Contact with each customer is limited to the passing of pieces of paper or taking money and giving change through a small slot at the bottom of the window," he wrote.

The Douglas County Health Department suggested to the presiding judge that they "identify people who had 15 minutes of contact with the positive person, with less than 6 feet of separation without a face covering," Steel said.

Steel said an additional 15 to 20 staff members tested negative after voluntary testing.

"The court has strongly encouraged and continues to strongly encourage, all staff to exercise preventative measures within and outside of work," Steel wrote. "The court has provided masks, gloves, and sanitizer for all employees. In addition, hard surface sanitizing items are provided. Many staff exercise great preventative efforts. Masks are required in the courtrooms, and each courtroom is equipped with sanitizer. The court continues to take serious precautions in accordance with the Douglas County Health guidance to reduce transmission of COVID-19."