Face masks and plexiglass: How government offices, courthouses plan to reopen with extra precautions
Face mask requirements, plexiglass dividers, virtual meetings and 6-foot floor markings will become the "new normal" for suburban government offices as they prepare for a phased reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Social distancing protocols are being implemented at municipal buildings, courthouses, driving service offices and other facilities that scaled back operations when the stay-at-home order began in March. Statewide restrictions will be loosened Friday, but government officials warn services remain limited, no-contact communication is encouraged, and preventive measures could change on the fly.
"Nobody has a pandemic guide. Nobody's lived through this," said Kane County Chief Judge Clint Hull, whose courtrooms are scheduled to reopen Monday. "It's not like we're going to hit a switch and it's going to be back up and (running) just like it was before."
Court calls will be staggered, and the number of people entering the building will be restricted, he said. Trials will remain suspended until August. When appropriate, defendants are asked to stay home and appear in court through their attorneys.
Similar protocols are in place in McHenry County, which has instituted a "reestablishment plan" for courthouse operations.
In DuPage County, court administrators say an executive order is in the works to govern operations beginning June 8, likely with more in-person proceedings. Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans is taking a more cautious approach with plans to extend current scaled-back operations until July 6.
Courthouses in Cook and all five collar counties also have plans in place to conduct remote hearings over Zoom or CourtCall in various capacities.
In towns such as Naperville, Schaumburg and St. Charles, municipal centers are reopening with safety precautions that could include hand sanitizing stations, sneeze glass barriers, temperature checks and floor markings. Building access may be limited to one entrance, face coverings are required, and certain business will be conducted online or by appointment only.
Social distancing restrictions and virtual participation options also are expected to remain in effect for public meetings.
Meanwhile, Libertyville village hall will not reopen until a barrier is installed in the greeting area to separate employees and visitors, Village Administrator Kelly Amidei said. Residents can use a drop-box in front of the building or conduct business online or by phone.
The Illinois secretary of state's office announced its driver services facilities will start resuming operations Monday and Tuesday, with the first few months reserved for new drivers, people with expired driver's licenses or ID cards and vehicle transactions. Information is available at cyberdriveillinois.com.