LOS ANGELES (CNS) — People going to Los Angeles County's courthouses will no longer have to comply with social distancing requirements, starting Monday, but will still be required to wear masks while inside courtrooms and other public areas of the courthouses, the presiding judge announced Thursday.
"For many months, we have required everyone in a courthouse to socially distance and remain six feet apart — at entrances and in hallways, elevators, courtrooms and offices," Presiding Judge Eric C. Taylor said in a written statement. "Beginning June 28, it will no longer be required to stay six feet apart from other people.
"I want to extend my sincere gratitude to everyone who has made this day possible by following federal, state and L.A. County public health protocols and who led the efforts towards public vaccination. This is a great day for everyone who visits and works in our courthouses."
The new order will eliminate the requirement for advance appointments for court services, along with the need to make an online request for in-person courtroom seating.
The court is "aligning with, and responsibly following, federal, state and county public health and Cal/OSHA workplace guidance that eliminates social distancing in public spaces," Taylor said.
"Public health guidance also dictates safety measures, including mask-wearing, to protect workers and the public from the spread of the virus and those persons not yet vaccinated. This is a huge step forward in our rise from the pandemic," Taylor said.
Face masks that are worn over the nose and mouth will continue to be required, and people who decline or refuse to wear a face mask without a court order exempting them from the mask requirement will be denied entry to the courthouse and/or courtroom, according to the court.
The court noted that eating or drinking is prohibited in courthouse hallways, although courthouse snack bars and cafeterias are expected to re-open.
Meanwhile, the court is also canceling its remote audio attendance program that has allowed the media and the public to listen remotely to courtroom proceedings without going to court since Jan. 11.
The court said the temporary program — which will no longer be offered as of Monday — had been implemented during the pandemic, with officials recognizing that there may be abuses of the court's orders barring recording, filming and distribution of court proceedings.
The court cited "widespread breaches" by the public in a "recent court proceeding" that highlighted the need to return to in-person, open courtroom proceedings.