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Bredar requires vaccination for federal courthouse entry as of Sept. 8

Order excludes criminal defendants, jurors, prospective jurors, criminal witnesses

Beginning Sept. 8, no one except for criminal defendants, jurors, prospective jurors and witnesses in criminal cases will be permitted to enter Maryland’s two federal courthouses unless they verify they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or granted a medical or religious exemption, Chief U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar ordered Wednesday.

On an interim basis, unvaccinated and not fully vaccinated people seeking to enter the Baltimore or Greenbelt courthouses may provide proof of a negative test for the virus administered within 72 hours of their entry, Bredar said.

A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the second dose of a two-dose vaccine or two weeks after receiving the single dose of a one-dose vaccine.

“Unlike during earlier stages of this crisis, safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines are now widely available in the United States,” Bredar stated, noting the Pfizer vaccine recently received full U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval.

“Persons gathering in courthouses are at particular risk of transmitting the COVID-19 virus by virtue of their close proximity to others, and because of the interactive activity that generally occurs in court proceedings,” Bredar added. “The purpose of this extended vaccination policy is to protect the health and safety of all who gather in the courthouses.”

Bredar stated the vaccination requirement expressly applies to attorneys, government agents, investigators, counsel staff, parties in civil litigation, state and federal law enforcement employees, witnesses in civil cases, journalists and visitors.

Those granted a medical or religious exemption will have to produce twice-weekly negative COVID-19 test results to enter the courthouses, Bredar added.

Everyone entering or occupying a public area in the courthouses must continue to wear a mask under an order Bredar issued in June.

“Unlike vaccinated persons, those who have not been vaccinated may not remove their masks when speaking in the courtrooms or in other spaces unless private,” Bredar stated in his order Wednesday. “Unvaccinated persons must maintain a distance of at least six feet from other persons while inside courthouses.”