Comanche County Courthouse to reopen Feb. 16
The Comanche County Courthouse will reopen to the public Feb. 16, Central District Commissioner Johnny Owens said Friday.
While offices have continued to function, the building has been closed to the general public in most instances since Thanksgiving, in response to a spike in COVID-19 cases in Lawton and Comanche County. The courthouse initially had been slated to reopen Jan. 4, but the board of commissioners — after meeting with county department heads — extended the closure because the number of COVID-19 cases had remained high. At the time, Owens said the goal was to allow the holiday spike of COVID-19 cases to pass before allowing the general public back into the building.
Owens said that after a Friday morning meeting with county department heads, officials decided to reopen the building Feb. 16, (Feb. 15, a Monday, is President’s Day, a county holiday), giving them time to finish a few details before the public begins entering the building again. And, the courthouse will return to the same protocols it had in place when it closed in November. Those safety measures were imposed by county officials when the courthouse reopened June 1, after having been closed to the general public since March 19 because of COVID-19 concerns at the beginning of the pandemic.
“That worked well,” Owens said, of the protocols that impose restrictions on operational hours while implementing sanitary measures.
That means offices will be open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. Visitors will enter the building through its west entrance and in addition to going through the metal detector, they also must submit to temperature checks (those above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit will not be allowed to enter). The visitor population will be limited to 100 people in the building at a time, and individual offices also may impose restrictions on the number of visitors allowed inside at one time. Those who enter must wear masks or other facial coverings. Owens said sanitation protocols also will be in place throughout the building, and social distancing restrictions will be imposed.
Owens said county officials will continue to do what they can to keep visitor traffic low. For example, offices still will encourage residents to make appointments and conduct as much business as they can by telephone. Drop boxes will be provided at the west entry for payment of fines, to eliminate the need to come into the building.
“We’ll keep out as much traffic as we can,” Owens said.
Individual offices, to include Small Claims Court and Municipal Court, will be providing information in coming days for their operations, Owens said.
The county was one of multiple entities that limited public access to their facilities because of COVID-19. The City of Lawton closed Lawton City Hall and other city-owned facilities to the general public for most activities in November, to protect staff members and the public from the virus. The closure has mean appointments are needed to conduct city business, but the city also is encouraging residents to do as much of their business remotely as possible. Officials have not said when the facilities will reopen.