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Schuylkill judge: Additional COVID-19 measures likely

Schuylkill County President Judge William E. Baldwin said Friday the increasing COVID-19 cases could result in additional measures being taken to curtail the virus in the county.

“We might get more restrictive,” Baldwin said about county functions.

He said safety is a top concern.

“The numbers are all going up,” he said of reported positive cases of COVID-19 in the county and the state.

On Friday the county announced five employees tested positive this week for the virus, necessitating 10 co-workers who were exposed or unprotected to be in quarantine.

Early on in the pandemic, the courthouse was only providing essential functions.

“We are not looking to go back to that level at this point. Do we want to go to some level in between there?” Baldwin said about possible restrictions.

Baldwin said he had a meeting Wednesday about the current situation and asked for input from county officials about what services are needed there and what can be provided by other means. Responses were due Friday.

If he decides to do so, Baldwin will issue an administrative order after talking with the commissioners and reviewing information submitted by row officers.

“It’s just an inquiry at this point,” he said.

Baldwin said he wants to ensure if action is taken it does not disrupt the operations of the offices.

However, some functions are constitutionally guaranteed and can’t be restricted, such as a defendant wanting to post bail.

He said the public can help by following the latest order by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Maintaining social distancing and wearing masks is needed to help stop the spread.

Baldwin said row officers can make decisions for their offices to continue services, but keeping safety for all is paramount.

Schuylkill County Commissioners’ Chairman Barron “Boots” Hetherington said they are trying to keep the courthouse open.

“We don’t want to close the courthouse,” he said.

Hetherington said Theresa Santai-Gaffney, register of wills and clerk of the orphan’s court, and Brenda Zeckman, director of Veterans Affairs for the county, are among those making changes. Zeckman was not available for comment Friday.

Santai-Gaffney said her changes include marriage certifications being available by calling the office at 570-628-1377. Payment is accepted by credit card or money order.

Probate services and marriage licenses are available using virtual options including Zoom, FaceTime, video conferencing and messenger, according to information provided on the county website, co.schuylkill.pa.us.

“This process allows us to witness the swearing-in oath and verify necessary signatures. We require you to email or fax the documents 48 hours prior to the scheduled appointment. Documents will be prepared and mailed or placed in the mailbox,” the website says.

The office is open by appointment only. Additional information is available on the county website.