Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert courts suspend jury trials

Chief judge takes precaution amid omicron variant surge

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An order by the chief judge in Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties has suspended all jury trials through Jan. 28, citing data regarding the coronavirus surge driven by the omicron variant.

The suspension applies across the 18th Judicial District, which encompasses the four counties, and took effect Jan. 3.

Michelle Amico, the chief judge, was advised by the Tri-County Health Department that the one-week “cumulative incidence rate” — the rate of new COVID-19 cases — over the previous week had increased at the highest rate compared to any previous COVID-19 surges for both Arapahoe and Douglas counties, according to the order, which was dated Dec. 30.

“Arapahoe County experienced a 163% increase, and Douglas County experienced a 180% increase,” the order said. “In addition, on December 29, 2021, both Arapahoe and Douglas Counties broke their record for the highest one-day case count since the pandemic started.”

The order added: “Today, the hospitals in both Arapahoe and Douglas Counties are under strain, with 100% of ICU (intensive-care unit) beds full and approximately 99% of non-ICU beds full.”

Data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment shows that the omicron variant has become the dominant variant in Colorado and now accounts for 91% of Colorado COVID-19 cases, with the delta variant accounting for the remainder, the order said.

“The CDC reports that anyone with Omicron infection can spread the virus to others, even if they are vaccinated or don’t have symptoms and that the surges in Omicron are likely to further aggravate the state’s healthcare system,” the order said.

The chief judge “has determined that public health and safety dictate avoiding the gathering of large groups of prospective jurors and that a temporary suspension of jury trials is necessary,” the order said.

The chief judge “will continue to closely monitor the COVID-19 data for all four counties and reserves the right to rescind, modify, or extend this (order) at any time based upon then-existing data, health related considerations, input from members of the bench and stakeholders, and all other relevant factors impacting jury trials,” the order continued.

The 18th Judicial District is the largest judicial district in Colorado, serving more than 1 million people, Amico noted in another order from 2021.

That order, dated Aug. 2, said “all persons must wear face coverings in the public and non-public areas of the courthouses and probation offices in the Eighteenth Judicial District until further notice.” That order cited CDC guidelines and recommendations from local public health officials.

18th Judicial District, court, Arapahoe County, Douglas, Elbert, Lincoln, Ellis Arnold

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