Chicago’s federal court to begin COVID-19 testing protocol for workers, jurors

The new plan announced by the chief judge is the latest in an effort to resume jury trials and other in-person hearings.

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Dirksen Federal Courthouse

Sun-Times file

Chicago’s chief federal judge Thursday announced a new COVID-19 testing protocol for court employees and jurors designed to help safely resume jury trials and other in-person court hearings amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

U.S. District Chief Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer authorized the clerk of Chicago’s federal court to enter into an agreement with SHIELD Illinois for a saliva-based COVID-19 screening program. She also ordered all employees, contractors and staff of all agencies in federal court in Chicago and Rockford to participate. They will be tested no more than twice a week.

In a note to court personnel, Pallmeyer wrote that testing will begin for a limited number of employees on Tuesday. She also wrote that, “This testing program won’t change everything. You are encouraged to continue working remotely when possible.”

Pallmeyer said in her order that test results will only be provided to employees, but said employees must report a positive test to their employer. The chief judge also said potential jurors will be tested, and anyone who sits on a jury will be tested twice a week. 

Anyone whose participation in a hearing or trial will last more than two days will be required to submit to testing or participate remotely, according to the order. All positive test results will be reported to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Chicago’s federal court largely shut down when the coronavirus pandemic took hold in March 2020. The court resumed jury trials in August, but Pallmeyer halted them again in late October. She has suspended them until April 5.

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