Courthouse loosens its COVID-19 precautions
By Bobby Bryant, Editor
The Darlington County Courthouse has taken a giant step toward being “back to normal” after a year of strict COVID-19 precautions. As of Tuesday, May 4, you can go anywhere in the courthouse if you’re willing to wear a face mask, County Administrator Charles Stewart told County Council during its May 3 meeting. There still will be a staff of Darlington County sheriff’s deputies in the lobby, and you still will be subject to the usual pre-COVID security screening, such as walking through a metal detector and having your bags put through an X-ray machine. But deputies are ending the practice of taking your temperature with an electronic scanner, Stewart said. And courthouse officials are ending the practice of requiring you to wait in the lobby for someone to come down from one of the county offices, escort you to whichever office you need, and escort you back down to the lobby. “Anyone who wears a mask can enter any portion of the courthouse,” Stewart told council. “We’ve never closed the courthouse,” Stewart added. “We’ve been servicing people as they come into the lobby downstairs. … (Clerk of Court Scott Suggs) has agreed that beginning (May 4), anyone who wears a mask and agrees to do social distancing may enter the courthouse after they go through security and go to whatever department they want to go to themselves.” “However, if the citizen, for whatever reason, refused to wear a mask, they will be stopped in the lobby and asked to sit at one of the tables or kiosks, so to speak, that have been set up, and someone will come down and serve them,” Stewart said. “We have no way to maintain the recommended, and still-recommended, social distancing in our elevator system unless only one person gets on at a time,” he added. “As far as all other county departments and buildings, we are asking everybody to wear a mask and to maintain social distancing. But entry will not be restricted past a lobby area as it has been in the past with the pandemic.” Stewart said there has been frustration that other counties in the area had relaxed their COVID cautions now that the pandemic seems to be less and less threatening in this part of the nation. But at the same time, he said, there has also been frustration that if “you just pretend nothing’s going on, are you asking an employee to come to work and get themselves exposed to something that they don’t want to have to be exposed to if we don’t take any precautions?” Darlington City Hall reopened to the public “at a limited capacity” starting May 6. The city says people may only enter through the front door of City Hall, 400 Pearl St. You must wear a mask. Individuals must maintain social distancing of 6 feet. No more than three people will be allowed in the reception area at any one time. Restrooms will not be open to the public.