Amherst Circuit Court resuming jury trials during the COVID-19 pandemic will have to wait at least until April 15.
The court tentatively planned to hold its first jury trial in more than a year on March 1 and another was planned for March 29. However, the court extended the suspension of jury trials from March 1 through mid-April, according to a Feb. 17 order signed by Circuit Court Judge Michael Garrett.
“The Amherst County community still is experiencing a significant number of new cases,” the order posted on Amherst County’s website states. “The Amherst County court system has experienced numerous delays and continuances due to positive COVID-19 tests in members of the local bar, employees of the courts, law enforcement and the population of the Amherst Adult Detention Center.”
On Feb. 4, Amherst Circuit Court and the Amherst Circuit Court Clerk’s Office had to close because of an exposure to the virus. In January the county had the largest number of new cases reported to date in the county in a single day.
As of Feb. 19, the county has seen 2,632 cumulative positive coronavirus cases with 68 hospitalizations and 13 reported deaths, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
“Due to the large number of persons required for jury selection and the number of jurors required for a jury trial, the court finds that to conduct a jury trial under present conditions would pose a substantial health risk to participants in the trial, those working in the courthouse and the general public,” the order states.
In previous orders, jury trials were suspended through Feb. 28.