Warren’s City Hall was closed to the public effective Nov. 9 amid a spike in positive coronavirus cases among city employees.

Warren’s City Hall was closed to the public effective Nov. 9 amid a spike in positive coronavirus cases among city employees.

Photo by Brian Louwers

COVID-19 concerns close Warren city offices, court

Several city employees test positive

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published November 9, 2020


WARREN — Warren’s City Hall and the 37th District Court were closed to the public effective Nov. 9 amid a spike in positive tests for the coronavirus among city employees across various departments.

Mayor Jim Fouts said the closures were expected to extend through at least late November, as cases continued to rise and after the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued a new order pausing most nonessential social gatherings for three weeks.

“We’ve been in pretty good shape until suddenly, we have five or six or seven in one department, a couple in another department,” Fouts said in his initial announcement. “We have nine over at the court. We have eight or nine at the Police Department.

“The most disturbing thing, we have one department head, he’s in his 50s. He was in good health. He’s the last person you’d expect to get it. He’s on a ventilator,” Fouts said.

Fouts said at least one other departmental supervisor had difficulty breathing as a result of COVID-19.

He said six of nine building maintenance employees were out as a result of the coronavirus.

The mayor said all nonessential city employees will be working from home, whenever possible, until further notice.

As of Nov. 10, Warren Police Commissioner William Dwyer said 10 police officers were in quarantine after testing positive. Another 10 officers and three dispatchers were in quarantine with test results pending. Six other officers tested negative for COVID-19.

Dwyer said several officers who worked together recently at the scene of a barricaded gunman were exposed. The team that responded included personnel from several divisions in the department. Despite the influx in positive tests and officers in quarantine, Dwyer said patrol operations and response time would not be negatively affected.

“In a department our size, over 200, this is not confined to any division. Every division in the department, including dispatchers, has been affected,” Dwyer said. “We’ve looked at this. It’s peaking. We’ve got a lot of safeguards.”

Dwyer said roll call sessions have been suspended, body temperature checks are performed during each shift, and the building is professionally sanitized daily. He said the lobby of the city’s police headquarters remains closed to the public.  

Fouts said the city’s libraries and the Warren Community Center were still open as of Nov. 16, with safeguards in place and access limited to a limited number of patrons at a time.  The situation was expected to be reviewed again on Nov. 18, however, after the Warren Weekly went to press.

All city employees, Fouts said, were being urged to wear masks, maintain social distancing and limit trips outside of the home.

“The predicted spike in COVID-19 cases has now hit Michigan and Warren. We have more employees positive than at any other time since this pandemic began in March,” Fouts said.

Chief Judge John Chmura said the 37th District Court had suspended in-person hearings in all but the most serious matters.

“It’s been an outbreak everywhere, as you know. We’re not immune to that, no pun intended,” Chmura said.

The courthouse closed to the public on Nov. 5 and is now set to be closed to the public through Feb. 15, 2021, Chmura said.

“By that I mean we’re not hearing any cases unless they’re via Zoom or unless it’s just something we absolutely have to have, like a serious preliminary exam or something like that,” Chmura said.

Positive tests among court employees and police officers led to the decision to revert back to a level of operation the court used in the early summer, before restrictions were relaxed somewhat in mid-July.

Chmura said the court would be thoroughly disinfected and safe before the public returns and in-person court business resumes. Employees are reporting to work at the complex to manage the caseload while most litigants, defendants and attorneys appear virtually.

On Nov. 15, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a three-week epidemic order that paused most indoor social gatherings. Indoor residential gatherings were limited to a maximum of two households at a time, and families were asked to pick no more than one other household with which to interact for the following three-week period.

The order suspended in-person high school and college classes, indoor dining at bars and restaurants and many organized sports activities.

Carryout and delivery meal services, personal gym workouts and essential in-person work performed outside of the home were permitted to continue, along with any work that cannot be performed at home. However, those who can work from home were directed to do so.

Outdoor gatherings, including dining and parks remained open. Individual activities, including haircuts by appointment, retail shopping and public transit were all permitted to continue with masks and social distancing safeguards in place.