The Forsyth County Hall of Justice will undergo a deep cleaning this weekend amid the coronavirus pandemic, and the building might be ready to be reoccupied by Monday, a county official said Friday.
During the courthouse’s closure, filings for domestic-violence protective orders can be made at the Forsyth County Magistrates’ Office in the Forsyth County Jail at 201 N. Church St. in Winston-Salem, the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts said in a news release. Civil filings can be made at the Civil Magistrate’s Office in the Forsyth County Government Center at 201 N. Chestnut St.
On Thursday, the courthouse was closed to the public until May 4 after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. Todd Burke, the county’s senior resident superior-court judge, signed an order closing the Forsyth County Hall of Justice for seven days.
“We are most disheartened to hear that this virus has affected someone that we work with closely,” Burke said in a statement. “While we are concerned about continuing to process the cases before the court, we must act immediately to protect the health of other personnel as well as the people that we serve.
“Acting fast to close the courthouse will help slow the possible spread of the virus,” Burke said.
Forsyth County Manager Dudley Watts said that the courthouse will be cleaned following the guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting a building issued by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
County officials hope that the courthouse will be ready to be reoccupied on Monday, Watts said.
“The judge (Burke) in his order was pretty clear,” Watts said. “Once we get it disinfected to his satisfaction, he would consider reopening it.”
Burke acknowledged Friday that county officials plan to clean and sanitize the building over the weekend. He said he would reconsider his order to keep the building closed to the public until May 4 if the courthouse was cleaned and sanitized by Monday.
Kirby Robinson, the county’s assistant general services director, said that American Facilities Services Inc., the county’s janitorial contractor, will begin cleaning the courthouse at 9 a.m. today. A crew will use a Clorox electrostatic process that will emit a bleach disinfectant throughout the 78,000-square-foot building.
The disinfectant sits on surfaces in the building for 24 hours, Robinson said. The cleaning will cost about $9,000, he said.
“It leaves no residue,” Robinson said. “It leaves no smell. It basically kills everything.”
The process will kill bacteria in the building, including the COVID-19 virus, he said.
“It will make the building clean and sanitized and ready to be occupied on Monday in whatever form that judicial officials deem appropriate,” Robinson said.
County officials and county health officials have advised that it should be safe to reopen the building after seven days, Burke said. After the building has a deep cleaning, Burke would review the order to determine if the courthouse needs to be closed down longer, he said.
Burke said he expects that the courthouse would be reopened to the public on May 4. The building would be reopened for employees on May 1.
Burke said an employee came into work Thursday exhibiting symptoms consistent with COVID-19. That employee left work immediately and went to a medical professional to get testing. Burke said he was informed later on Thursday that the employee tested positive for COVID-19.
Burke did not identify the employee but in his order, he said that the employee worked in the bookkeeping department in the clerk’s office. The order said the clerk is responsible for helping people with payments and for filing and distributing papers within the clerk’s office.
As of Friday, there were 146 cases of the coronavirus in Forsyth County, and five patients have died in the county, Forsyth County health officials say. In North Carolina, there were 8,052 cases and more than 265 deaths, state health officials say.
Renita Thompkins, the Forsyth County Clerk of Superior Court, is requiring staff members who came into contact with the infected clerk to self-quarantine for two weeks, Burke said in his order.
Linville also couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.