All in-court proceedings and hearings in the U.S. District Court for Maryland will be suspended through Jan. 15 due to a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the state that has worsened with the approach of the holiday season, Chief Judge James K. Bredar ordered Thursday.
Bredar’s order extended his directive earlier this month that suspended operations through the end of November.
“Since that time the situation in the State of Maryland has continued to deteriorate,” Bredar wrote in his two-page order.
“The statewide seven-day positivity rate now exceeds 7% and continues on an upward trajectory,” he added. “The court also notes the upcoming holiday season and recognizes the likelihood of greater community spread and worsening data in the coming weeks.”
Under the order, some proceedings are being transferred to virtual formats while others are being postponed. Presiding judges are contacting counsel and parties regarding the status of scheduled in-court proceedings.
No attorneys, parties or members of the general public are allowed in the federal courthouses in Baltimore and Greenbelt without prior permission from Bredar or the clerk of the district or bankruptcy court under the chief judge’s order, which the U.S. Marshals Service is enforcing.
Bredar’s express permission is required for the entry of anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 within the past 14 days; has been in contact in the past 14 days with anyone who has been diagnosed with the virus; has been asked to self-quarantine by a health care provider; has a temperature of at least 100 degrees; has or lives with someone who has COVID-19 like symptoms, including fever, chills, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell, and vomiting; or who has returned from international travel or a cruise ship voyage within 14 days.
Bredar said in his latest order that the distressing positivity numbers were one factor in his public-health compelled decision to further suspend court operations. The chief judge also cited the “rapid increase” in the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 and in the number of new cases, as well as further limits on indoor occupancy of restaurants, houses of worship and entertainment centers imposed by Gov. Larry Hogan and, to a greater extent, by some county and city leaders.
Hogan on Tuesday ordered bars and restaurants to close to indoor seating at 10 p.m. He also reinstated lower capacity limits on stores, houses of worship and other establishments including bowling alleys, skating rinks, bingo halls and gyms to 50%.
Bredar said the court will “continue to review the COVID-19 virus data and all other relevant criteria on a regular basis to determine whether conditions have sufficiently improved such that the orders reducing court operations may be rescinded.”