The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has drawn up plans for dealing with the spreading coronavirus, with an eye toward maintaining “essential elements of prevention and maintaining essential services” in the event of an outbreak, according to a statement provided by the agency to Bloomberg Law.
The AO distributed guidance to the nation’s courts on Thursday as stock markets dropped and contagion fears spread in the U.S. The move comes less than 24 hours after President Donald Trump designated Vice President Mike Pence to helm the administration’s response to the virus.
The administrative office plan provides for the expanded use of teleworking and employment of what it called “social distancing measures,” including use of flexible work hours, substituting teleconferencing for face-to-face meetings, and promoting three-feet separation between individuals. It also encouraged monitoring and following all CDC and Transportation Security Administration travel notices.
The coronavirus outbreak, which started in China, has spread globally. More than 82,400 cases have been reported worldwide, with a death toll of 2,800, Bloomberg News reported.
U.S. authorities are expanding the number of people being tested for infection, adding travelers from other nations with reported outbreaks and people with as yet unexplained severe respiratory illnesses. California, the site of the first known infection not associated with previous outbreaks is monitoring 8,400 people for signs of exposure after traveling to China, Governor Gavin Newsom has said.
In the nation’s courts, the administrative office said, it is emphasizing the regular, routine cleaning of workplace surfaces, hand washing and “good respiratory etiquette.”
Each court is also free to establish “a pandemic/infectious disease emergency response team to tailor activities to their particular circuit or district,” the agency said. There are more than 100 federal courts operating at multiple levels from trial to supreme across the U.S.