Some offices inside the York County Judicial Center continue to ignore orders about masks

Dylan Segelbaum York Daily RecordPublished 9:07 AM EDT Jul 31, 2020Despite an employee recently testing positi

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Despite an employee recently testing positive for COVID-19, the York County Prothonotary’s Office continues to flout orders from both the state secretary of health and the president judge requiring people to wear masks in public places to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The York Daily Record/Sunday News this week observed employees who were not wearing masks interacting with members of the public behind partial plexiglass barriers in the prothonotary’s office, which serves as the filing and recording agency for civil court records. That’s also happening in other places in the York County Judicial Center, including the York County Clerk of Courts’ Office, which handles criminal court records.

READ: York County Prothonotary's Office employee tests positive for COVID-19, but public not told

The practice does not comply with Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine’s order on universal mask wearing in public spaces, said Maggi Mumma, deputy press secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Health, in an email.

“If they are within six feet of another individual they must wear a mask, regardless of whether there is a barrier,” Mumma said. “The barrier is another form of protection when social distancing cannot be achieved, but masks are still required.”

York County President Judge Joseph C. Adams recently entered an administrative order that states “all persons must wear face masks at all times in all areas of the building directly accessible to members of the public.”

“I have reminded the row officers of the Administrative Order regarding the wearing of masks when dealing with members of the public,” Adams said in an email.

Elected officials, he said, can establish their own protocols “within areas of their respective departments not directly accessible to members of the public.” That complies with the secretary of health’s order.

RELATED: Employee with positive COVID-19 test had 'no close contact' with public, York County says

On Thursday, Prothonotary Allison Blew came to the front counter, without wearing a mask, and requested a reporter’s card. Twenty minutes later, she asked him to send questions through email. As of Friday morning, she had not responded to the questions.

Clerk of Courts Dan Byrnes could not be reached.

Last week, an employee in the prothonotary’s office tested positive for COVID-19, but the public was not informed.

More than 24 hours after the York Daily Record first started asking about the case, York County released a statement acknowledging that one of its more than 2,000 employees had contracted the coronavirus.

Later, Mark Walters, a spokesperson for York County, sent out a statement that announced a case investigation confirmed the employee had no "close contact" with the public. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines those as interactions with a person not wearing a mask while closer than 6 feet and for longer than 15 minutes.

ALSO OF INTEREST: 'Wear a mask': Wolf, Levine say COVID-19 wave not over in Pa., during York Hospital visit

Other elected officials and leaders say they’re taking precautions and following the mask orders in the judicial center.

Kyle King, a spokesperson for the York County District Attorney’s Office, said employees must wear masks at all times, unless they’re alone at their cubicle or in an office by themselves.

King said the mask requirement has been stressed a couple of times.

“We’re doing pretty much what we can,” Chief Public Defender Bruce Blocher said. “People take it serious here.”

Register of Wills/Clerk of Orphans’ Court Bryan Tate said his employees are wearing masks any time they interact with members of the public.

“Our job is to serve the public,” he said. “For the public to trust us, they need to know they’re not going to get sick by coming in this office.”

Everyone who enters the office, he said, has to also wear a mask. Tate noted that wearing face coverings is about protecting other people.

“They’re being thoughtful of the staff here, and our staff is being thoughtful of them,” Tate said. “Mutual respect, I think, goes a long way. Not just in the coronavirus pandemic — but in general — when being part of a community.”

Contact Dylan Segelbaum at 717-771-2102.
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