Gwinnett chairman says freshly-scrubbed courthouse is a 'safe place'

Five days after closing for a deep cleaning, the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center reopened for business Tuesday. At least for now.

At first, Gwinnett County deputies processed visitors through the security checkpoint without checking their temperatures as has been the case at the jail. However, by noon deputies had deployed digital thermometers at the courthouse as well.

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Kimberly Salazar and her family made sure they got to the courthouse as soon as it opened, one of the few practicing that doctors having been preaching for weeks.

 “It was kind of scary us going in there,” Salazar said through her surgical mask. “Us all protected and nobody else is looking worried or afraid or anything. Everyone close together.”

Gwinnett deputies try to keep couples six feet apart while in line to get marriage licenses.

FOX 5's Randy Travis had the same observation. At the most popular destination – the marriage license window – only a few feet separated a line of excited couples. For them it seemed to be more “death do us part” than 6 feet apart. A clerk eventually came out and tried to widen the distance between each couple.

“We’re only going to take you if you’re planning to get married this week or next week,” she said. “If it’s beyond that you’ll have to come back later.”

Eptesam Sufiyan and her fiancé Abdullah Yosif tried to get their marriage license last week, but arrived at the courthouse just as it was shutting down. Since then, cleaning crews have worked room by room using a chemical mist to infiltrate every corner of the Justice Center.

Sufiyan works in a hospital and is familiar with how things can quickly change. She didn’t want to take a chance that the courthouse could suddenly close again.

“Definitely,” she said. “Trying to get everything done in the right order while we still can.”

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Most of the building was cut off from the public. On the second and third floors, the areas typically buzzing with attorneys, cops and defendants, there was only a lone custodian working in one of the bathrooms. Most court activity has been suspended.

“We can’t guarantee we can eliminate everything,” warned Gwinnett County Commission chair Charlotte Nash about the cleaning regimen. “But we’re taking all the steps we can to ensure it’s a safe place.”

She said there is no consideration for ordering a shelter-in-place edict in Gwinnett similar to what Atlanta is now under for non-essential workers. Part of the problem, she explained, are the 16 cities scattered throughout the county. She says they are working on issuing a joint declaration soon which could affect the entire county population.

But she stressed no shelter-in-place orders are imminent.

Earlier, Gwinnett County closed all park amenities like basketball courts and playgrounds. The parks are still open for walkers and runners, a decision Nash said will not change as long as people can stay six feet apart.

How is Nash approaching social distancing?

“Act as if we are positive,” she explained. “And focus on not spreading it to everybody else.”

Kimberly Salazar had to leave without getting the guardianship of her cousins. She was told to come back in two weeks.    By then, she hopes, others will take this as seriously as she does.  

“There’s lots of people without masks so it is kind of scary,” she admitted.

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Best prevention measures:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least twenty seconds.
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces


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