It's been a week now since the decision was made to streamline all essential Suffolk County Court operations to the Cohalan Court Complex in Central Islip.
Relatively speaking, things have transitioned fairly well in Suffolk County although there have been a few bumps in the road. The amount of people coming into our courthouse has decreased considerably in the last 7 days and as a result our members are much safer than they were a week ago. More needs to be done however, because there are still too many members of the public unnecessarily entering the court building. Judge Marks executed an administrative order on March 22 detailing what types of court activity and proceedings are considered essential. He emphasized that "until further order, no papers shall be accepted for filing by a county clerk or court in any matter of a type not included on the list of essential matters". A copy of his order is attached. This should help further limit the amount of people unnecessarily coming into the courthouse. We have been very fortunate that, for the most part, the Judges in Suffolk County, unlike some of the Judges in NYC, have been extremely sensitive to the concerns of our members and have fully cooperated with the plan that Judge Hinrichs has put in place to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus in the Suffolk County Courthouses. You should also be aware that the District Executive, Warren Clark, has kept the lines of communication open and he has kept me updated on all that is happening in Suffolk. I am very thankful to Warren for keeping me apprised because other jurisdictions are not as fortunate.
To date, I am only aware of one member who has tested positive for the virus in Suffolk County. This individual was not at work when he became ill and has been at home since March 11. He was tested on March 13 and confirmation of Coronavirus was made on March 20. It is my understanding that this person is doing well and will remain quarantined until at least April 3. The Suffolk County Health Commissioner was notified on March 20, once the positive test result was made known, and he did not believe that any one else was at risk for exposure from this member because he did not exhibit symptoms when he was last at work, it had been 10 days since he was last at work, and nobody else he may have been in contact with has exhibited any symptoms.
I do want to remind people of a number of things. Please do not start rumors as to possible test results. Unless there is specific confirmation of a positive test result do not assume what you have heard is true. People are worried enough about this virus and they don't need to be frightened by unconfirmed rumors. Please be aware that social media is not the place to turn to for facts. Some things that are posted on Facebook are not necessarily true, or may apply to issues that are happening in courts outside of Suffolk County. If you have any questions, please contact your delegate or one of the Executive Board Members and we will try our best to get you an answer. Please remember that those who are on excused leave should not assume that they can use this opportunity to take a vacation. Everyone is expected to be available, if mandated, to come into work.
Finally, I want to remind everyone to take care of themselves. We are all public servants and we have dedicated our lives to being of service to others. In doing so however, we have a tendency to neglect ourselves. This crisis is affecting us at work and at home. Some of us have young children or older parents that we are taking care of. That alone is stressful. When we are stressed, we weaken our bodies and that makes us vulnerable or susceptible to illness. We need to stay as positive and calm as we possibly can. Take it one day at a time. We need to "put our own oxygen mask on first". This is a great metaphor that reminds us of the flight attendant who tells us before takeoff, that we should put our own oxygen mask on before helping others with theirs. It helps us to understand that we have to take care of ourselves, if we are going to be healthy enough to help others. So I urge all of you to take care of yourselves. Eat right, exercise, and try to get enough sleep. We need you, but more importantly, your family needs you.