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Courts transition from virtual to in-person

Column by Commissioner Cook

  • 20 May 2021
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 182
  • 0 Comments

At the Williamson County Justice Center courtrooms, plexiglass barriers have been placed at each counsel table, on the bar and at the podium where lawyers address the jury, which is seated in the gallery to maintain social distancing

When the state of emergency for COVID-19 was declared in March 2020, the Williamson County Justice Center, assisted by county departments such as IT and others, was able to conduct business throughout the shutdown.

“We knew that the ‘wheels of justice’ had to keep turning, so we did what you do in a desperate situation, we came together and figured it out,” said Judge Donna King of the 26th district court.

They didn’t just figure it out, they excelled at conducting daily business and holding court hearings virtually.

King also credits the support from the Commissioners Court.

This March, the emergency order permitted courts to begin holding in-person proceedings following COVID-19 prevention standards but encouraged them to continue remote proceedings through June 1.

King held her first in-person jury trial on April 13, describing it as “almost a feeling of relief to be back in a jury trial.”

Although the logistics of the proceedings looked very different from the prepandemic jury trial, they had turned a corner and their hard work of planning paid off.

She described feeling a sense of pride that those summoned to appear for jury duty honored their responsibility to the community. They showed up, participated and seemed to share in this “corporate” sense of relief that the proceedings were well-organized and COVID-protocol compliant.

While virtual jury trials were conducted during the shutdown in other counties, Wilco courts didn’t, citing a lack of control over procedure and adherence to the rules of trial, exposure to information outside the proceeding and constraints on litigants’ rights to confront their accusers fully and appropriately.

Before the shutdown, jury trials involved large cattle calls of prospective jurors and a flurry of activity to see which case would be selected, all in-person. The court now has implemented limitations on the number of cases heard per day and plans that reduce the number of people convened at the courthouse.

Commissioners Court Approves National Prevention Week Proclamation by Commissioner Cook on Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Week designation created by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)

  • 12 May 2021
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 205
  • 0 Comments

Shown in photo inside the Historic Courthouse Commissioners Courtroom are from front from left: Martha Paddie, LifeSteps Coalition Coordinator; Rosana Sielaff, Director of Prevention; Barbara and George Brightwell, LifeSteps Founders: and Kelly McCaffrey, LifeSteps Executive Director. In back are from left Commissioner Cook, Commissioner Cynthia Long, Judge Bill Gravell and Commissioner Russ Boles.WHEREAS, National Prevention Week, created by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), is an annual time to raise awareness of the importance of substance use prevention and implementing positive mental health changes; and

 WHEREAS, this year’s National Prevention Week theme is “Youth Leading Prevention,” recognizing youth prevention leaders across the country and the power that each young person has in influencing positive community change; and

WHEREAS, according to the 2020 Texas School Survey, 42.8% of high school students (grades 9-12) and 21.3% of middle school students (7th and 8th grades) report drinking alcohol in the previous 30 days, and the 2019 Texas College survey found 54.8% of college students acknowledged alcohol use in the previous 30-days; and

WHEREAS, mental health workers around the world have reported increased feelings of stress, fear, anxiety, and isolation in people of all ages, where youth have been especially impacted, during this pandemic leading to increased use of alcohol and other drugs to cope with this uncomfortable reality; and

WHEREAS, preventing substance use before it begins is the most effective way to eliminate the damage caused by drugs and alcohol abuse; and

Commissioners Court Approves Elder Abuse Prevention Proclamation by Commissioner Cook

  • 11 May 2021
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 215
  • 0 Comments

Staff of Texas Adult Protective Services in Williamson County and Commissioners Cook, Long, Judge Gravell, and Boles stand in background.

WHEREAS, our elderly population are vital and integral members of our society and their wisdom and experience have enriched our lives; and

WHEREAS, abuse and exploitation of the elderly in domestic and institutional settings are wide-spread problems, affecting hundreds of thousands of people across the country; and

WHEREAS, Texas Adult Protective Services In-Home Caseworkers in Williamson County investigated 1,284 allegations of which 388 cases of Abuse, Neglect and/or Exploitation were confirmed against our elderly Texans in 2020; and

WHEREAS, elder abuse, which happens to men and women of all income levels, all cultural and ethnic groups, in good health or incapacitated in some way, and across every type of community, is grossly underreported because the elderly who are being abused, find it very difficult to tell anyone, are usually ashamed, sometimes afraid, or may not be aware that someone they trust is taking advantage of them, or, in fact, not understand they are being abused; and

WHEREAS, the Williamson County Attorney’s Office serves an important role in the investigation and prosecution of elder abuse and exploitation, and they also have a strong victim services program to assist those who have been targeted for the abuse;

Wilco Vaccine Providers Accessibility Data Reported Since 4/30/2021

  • 3 May 2021
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 188
  • 0 Comments

Some of these are  Williamson County medical offices who offer their doses only to their clients.

This data is self-reported as their inventory for 1st doses from 4/30/21  to 5/2/2021.

Click here to view the accessiblity data for vaccine providers.

Final Update on COVID-19 Vaccinations

Information from the Williamson County Public Information Office

  • 27 April 2021
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 265
  • 0 Comments

Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell reported yesterday that this week will be the last week that first doses will be given at the County’s mass vaccIcon of circle with the coronavirus and an injection drawn inside produced by Johns Hopkins Medicine.ination sites. The County’s contracts with FHS and Curative will terminate in May after second shots have been given for those who received first shots at one of the County’s mass vaccination sites. 

“The mass vaccination sites will be closing down in the future, but this isn’t the end. We are moving forward with the mobile units and kiosk units,” stated Cristin Meehan, director of vaccine distribution for Curative. “We want to make sure everyone knows that we are going to be here. You can go to Curative.com and put in your location. There are lots of appointments that are available. There still are plenty of doses to get out. Curative’s mission is to end this pandemic. That is what it has been since we started this back in March of last year, and that is still our goal.”

Williamson County discontinued keeping a centralized waitlist earlier this month due to decreased numbers of new registrations. Instead, individuals can schedule their COVID-19 vaccination directly with the provider of their choice. Currently, there are 25 vaccine providers in Williamson County with more than 20,110 first shots available

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