COVINGTON, Ga. — Newton County government officials reopened their administrative offices to the public today after closing them abruptly last week because of COVID-19 safety concerns.
The Newton County Administration Building — where residents conduct day-to-day operations like buying car tags and paying property taxes — as well as the Historic Courthouse and Public Works building closed at noon Wednesday, July 1, due to concerns officials had about COVID-19.
The National Guard then conducted a deep cleaning of the board of commissioners office buildings and judicial center prior to the administration building reopening today, July 6, at 8 a.m., said county government spokesman Bryan Fazio.
Fazio said the county government was still encouraging the use of masks and other safety measures related to COVID-19 in its buildings.
The judicial center, which houses courtrooms and court and judicial offices, will remain closed through July 14 by order of Superior Court Judge John Ott , who is chief judge of the Alcovy Judicial Circuit.
Ott issued the declaration Wednesday, a day after he was diagnosed with COVID-19 himself.
Superior Court Judge Horace Johnson Jr. died earlier Wednesday. Ott’s order noted “the loss of a true public servant resulting in a need to further assess judicial resources.”
Ott said he was declaring the judicial emergency due to having “several judges and staff” in the Newton and Walton courthouses diagnosed with COVID-19. He did not specify who was diagnosed.
The order closed the courthouses of Newton and Walton counties through July 14. Unless the order is extended, normal courthouse operations would resume on July 15 at 8 a.m.
Courts will remain “minimally open to address essential functions,” and Ott said last week he was equipped to conduct hearings via video conference from his home during a two-week quarantine period.
Walton Tribune editor and publisher David Clemons contributed to this report.