Courthouse precautions boosted after judge tests positive

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Carroll County Judge Sam Barr, who tested positive recently with Covid-19, is reportedly doing well recovering at home. But the illness of the county’s top elected official raised concerns for others who were in contact with him recently.

“When it hits that close to home, it makes it real,” County Clerk Connie Doss said. Her office is next to Barr’s in the Carroll County Courthouse in Berryville. “We are taking more precautions, but the work must go on. We are a very essential service to the county because we take care of payroll, accounts payable, human resources, elections, probate, etc. We have to be there. We can’t do it remotely. We can’t stop county government. We have to keep going and provide services.”

Doss came into contact with Barr a couple times the week before he became ill. She said exposure was minimal because Barr stays in his office most of the time.

Doss said two employees who work with Barr are on 14-day quarantine, and although she hasn’t been tested, it has been 14 days since she came into contact with Barr and she hasn’t become ill.

She said her office is set up so workplaces are at least six feet apart. As an additional precaution, she has reduced the number of people working in the office daily by rotating schedules.

A complicating factor is that court was held all last week and is planned all this week.

“The courthouse is still open,” Doss said. “They take precautions up front, but there are people in and out of that courthouse all day. The court was behind because of the virus. They are trying to play catch-up.”

The Quorum Court meeting originally scheduled for July 20 has been moved to July 27, and Doss said they are working on the remote meeting. “It is a challenge with the technology as all the quorum court members need a laptop or computer,” she said. “But we hope to have a virtual meeting July 27.”

Barr was known to take the virus seriously. After the first virus death was reported in Carroll County in early June, Barr said the man had been a friend for more than 60 years. In an article published in the ESI at the time, Barr said Covid-19 felt real to him even before losing his friend to the disease.

Barr expressed concerns about people not wearing masks or observing social distancing. “And I think that is the key to this,” he said. “The best thing you can do is try to keep your social distance, wear a mask and wash your hands so often you make them raw.”

Barr’s assistant, Rhonda Griffin, posted on his Facebook page: “Judge Barr has given me permission to be totally transparent and let our citizens know that he received the call this morning that he has tested positive for Covid-19. Folks… you cannot be too careful! We will be closing at noon today, and deep cleaning the courthouse. The exposure is basically confined to our office. Judge Barr has not been in the office at all this week, so exposure has been to a minimum. I, however, will be quarantined for the next 14 days.”

Griffin wrote that Barr wanted to share his story to illustrate how easy it is to catch Covid-19.

“We have had the courthouse closed to public entry for the past few weeks, worn masks, and had our temperature taken every day,” she wrote. “We don’t know where he contracted this. He has not been hospitalized. He’s been taking it easy at home. I have taken him ice cream, and his appetite is good. He appreciates all your prayers and well wishes.”

A message left on Barr’s answering machine Monday was not returned prior to deadline.

Wayne Schumacher met with Barr on July 10 about problems that resulted when road crews sliced the underground telephone line to the Schumacher home on Rock House Road, leaving them without phone service for more than a week. Schumacher said he had about a five-minute conversation while standing in the doorway of Barr’s office. Schumacher said he was wearing a mask, but Barr was not. However, the two men were socially distanced.

Schumacher said he was told by Griffin that Barr first got tested with the regular Covid-19 test and then took a quick Covid-19 test. The quick test showed a false negative.

Regular testing that is considered more reliable is now taking a week or longer to get results because demand is higher than capacity. Schumacher got tested with the more reliable test and had not received test results by Monday. He said it had been 10 days since he had the brief contact with Barr, and that experts state that most people come down with Covid-19 within five days of exposure.

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