For Miami, the civil trial was relatively routine: an insurance dispute over building damage caused by Hurricane Irma. It was also one of the first lengthy Jury Trials to be held in person as Miami-Dade courts began opening up after a long pandemic closure.
The trial ended in early July. But then, several lawyers and the judges who had taken part in the two-and-a-half week trial tested positive for COVID-19.
One of the attorneys, Brittany Quintana Martí, who is pregnant, fell ill enough that she spent five days in the hospital. “She had shortness of breath and fatigue. Really horrible fatigue. Her oxygen levels dropped,” said her husband, fellow Miami lawyer Jose Martí.
Last week alone, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office disclosed, seven employees were diagnosed with COVID-19. On Monday, the office announced three more employees had tested positive; that’s 17 total since courts reopened fully to the public on June 28.
Since that date, at least 19 Miami-Dade jail inmates have tested positive, according to county statistics; it’s unknown how many of those have physically been to court, although at least two were confirmed in the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building during the first week back.
That includes one Miami jail inmate who tested positive on the third day of trial for a case involving a drunk-driving car crash. The trial was delayed three weeks, and is expected to resume in the coming days.Federal jury trials in this district have restarted without any horror stories just yet. But it seems like it is only a matter of time before there is an outbreak in court.