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In courthouse dining during a pandemic

August 25, 2020

As courts return to normal operations, people remain nervous about COVID-19 in courthouses. A recent State of the State Courts Survey found 52% of those polled scored 0-5 on a 10-point scale in terms of their comfort level in reporting for jury duty. While temperature checks, masks, gloves, and increased sanitizing are methods courts are adopting to keep people safe dining policies also need attention.

Court staff and courthouse users often need to eat or drink during a day. Before the virus, some courthouses had a cafeteria or cafes or restaurants within the courts. Alternatively, some courthouses include designated bring-your-own-food dining areas or have nearby restaurants that serve as informal meeting spaces. Groups often congregate in both areas within a short period of time and may present a serious COVID-19 health risk.

Universities and colleges are dealing with similar issues with their dining facilities and may offer solutions courts can adopt. Colleges aim to feed students while maintaining social distancing by limiting made-to-order items or serving grab-and-go food at stations spread across campus. Additionally, plexiglass barriers have been installed and condiment stations are being replaced with bins of single-use items. Tented food stations and food trucks are in use and dispersed across campus to facilitate social distancing. Some campuses are even using robots both to make the food and to deliver it. Delivery robots allow students to order their food via an app, with a robot performing the delivery.

Courts could implement some of these solutions. Grab-and-go food carts could be placed inside the courthouse security perimeter near courtrooms for easy access.  For courthouses without their cafeterias or restaurants, food trucks could be stationed nearby with courthouse customers ordering and paying by an app with only their orders crossing the security perimeter.

For more reading on pandemic responses and courthouse planning please visit NCSC’s Pandemic Resource Guide or our Court Facilities Planning pages.

How has your court addressed courthouse dining during the pandemic? Follow the National Center for State Courts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest, and share your experiences.

For more information on this or other topics impacting state courts, contact Knowledge@ncsc.org or call 800-616-6164.