Nelson courthouse

The Nelson County Courthouse, the seat of local government in Nelson County. 

Nelson County officials said appropriate measures were taken during two recent separate incidents of potential COVID-19 exposure involving sheriff’s deputies and courthouse officials.

Posts circulated on social media in late May claimed Nelson sheriff’s deputies had been exposed to the coronavirus and no action was being taken by officials to limit potential further exposure.

Nelson County Sheriff David Hill said in an email to the Nelson County Times his department took specific measures to protect themselves and others, and that while an individual did display symptoms in the courthouse on May 27, no person has tested positive for the virus.

“Things get spread around … that can cause panic or concern. We’re absolutely concerned about the COVID-19 virus and certainly want to prevent spread,” County Administrator Carter said.

An “in-depth” review to discuss the issues occurred May 29, a statement from the Nelson County Sheriff’s Office issued that same day said. Officials present during the meeting included local judges, Hill, Commonwealth’s Attorney Daniel Rutherford, Carter, Deputy Commonwealth Attorney Erik Laub and Denise Bonds, health director with the Thomas Jefferson Health District, which covers Nelson County.

Hill said based on information presented during the meeting, sheriff’s deputies were cleared by Bonds to continue operating as normal.

Hill later said deputies are responsible for responding to calls regardless of if the coronavirus is involved.

“They answer calls, they don’t hide. They’re servants, we all are servants so when a call comes we go,” Hill said.

To sidestep the limited access to the sheriff’s office, which is connected to the courthouse, the department temporarily used a mobile command center kept in the courthouse’s parking lot to continue with normal operations.

Hill said deputies involved willingly submitted to testing for the virus and that “test results conclude that no one tested positive for COVID-19.”

“Our office continued to function in an appropriate manner in accordance with the Virginia Department of Health’s guidance while [a state court order declaring a judicial emergency as a result of COVID-19] limited our deputies’ access to the building,” Hill said in the email.

Hill said when people access the courthouse deputies at the main entrance go through a series of questions establishing any potential COVID-19 exposure, a practice that relies on the honor system.

Carter said he felt the sheriff’s office acted appropriately in responding to the concerns.

“I feel confident in saying the sheriff was very proactive in taking appropriate measures to protect not only his officers, but to the extent that anybody was involved,” Carter said.

Nick Cropper covers Nelson County. Reach him at (434) 385-5522.

Nick Cropper covers Nelson County. Reach him at (434) 385-5522.

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