Some employees, citizens flouting mask order inside York County Judicial Center

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

Wearing a mask in public areas of the York County Judicial Center is required, but once people are inside and on upper floors, there's nothing to keep them from removing the face coverings.

Despite President Common Pleas Judge Joseph C. Adams' order that makes donning masks mandatory in public areas of the judicial center by both employees and the public, numerous people aren't complying.

On Monday and Tuesday, about a quarter of the people in public hallways were either barefaced or were wearing masks under their noses or chins — both judicial center employees and members of the public.

"It is very frustrating," Adams told The York Dispatch on Wednesday. "There is a loophole, and people are going through it."

York County Sheriff Rich Keuerleber said his deputies, who handle security at the judicial center's public entrance, check to ensure people's temperatures are normal before allowing them in.

Deputies also require people to wear masks to gain access to the building unless they have medical conditions — and even provide masks for those who don't have them, he said.

York County President Judge Joseph Adams appears at a press conference at the commissioner's chambers Monday, March 17, 2020. At the meeting, York County President Commissioner Julie Wheeler declared a state of emergency in the county due to the Coronavirus. Bill Kalina photo

But the sheriff maintains his deputies don't question members of the public already inside when they're not wearing masks.

"We can't question anyone on the upper floors," he said. "We do a temperature check (at the entrance) and if they don't have a mask, we supply them."

Keuerleber explained it's difficult for deputies on upper floors to know whether someone without a mask has already explained to a different deputy that they have a medical condition that exempts them.

That could amount to harassing people, he said, and "I'm not having my (deputies) enforce that."

The bottom line, the sheriff said, is that "everyone has to share the responsibility of wearing masks correctly."

More:Few details released about York County employee who tested positive for COVID-19

As for enforcing mask-wearing by judicial center employees, the sheriff said that's up to each department head.

Keuerleber said people should obey the mask order and noted he's ordered his deputies to wear masks in public areas.

"It should be a shared responsibility," he said. "Everybody should be taking those precautions ... for their own safety and the safety of everyone in the building."

The sheriff said none of his deputies has so far been sickened with COVID-19.

On Wednesday, the York County Commissioners confirmed a county employee has tested positive for the coronavirus. They did not confirm reports that the employee is in the prothonotary's office.

Richard P. Keuerleber speaks after taking the oath of office as York County Sheriff during a ceremony at the York County Administrative Center Friday, Jan. 3, 2020. Oaths of office were administered to county and court officials. Bill Kalina photo

Top judge weighs in: Adams shared a copy of his order, handed down Monday, that extends York County's judicial emergency through Dec. 31. It states, in part:

"All persons must wear face masks at all times in all areas of the building directly accessible to members of the public, while elected officials may establish their own protocols regarding the wearing of masks by employees within areas of their respective departments not directly accessible to members of the public."

Adams confirmed he's aware that while deputies enforce mask-wearing for people to gain entrance to the judicial center, they don't enforce it once people are inside.

"Can someone take off their mask? Obviously," he said. "We can't require that they provide us with documentation that they have a medical condition. We have to take them at their word."

He said his order is clear and that it's frustrating people are skirting it.

Adams urged people to do what they can to help stop the spread of the virus.

"We're all in this together," he said. "And it requires everybody to be on the same page."

— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.

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