Letter: When jury duty becomes a health risk

With the Covid-19 delta variant increasing rapidly in Portage County, can the government force you — against your will — to spend hours indoors in a room filled with total strangers, half of whom, statistically, have not been vaccinated (according to the Ohio Department of Health on Aug. 20)?

Apparently, it can. Pursuant to an ongoing Executive Order of Governor Mike DeWine, the Portage County Court of Common Pleas and Portage County Municipal Court are offering no opt-out for those unwilling to risk exposure to Covid-19 while serving jury terms that can last as long as three months.

A note from Common Pleas Deputy Jury Commissioner Tammy Kiser says enhanced sanitation protocols are being followed in the courthouses; all persons entering a courthouse must wear a mask, and social distancing protocols are followed when empanelling and conducting trials. Nothing is said about excluding those who remain unvaccinated. Because breakthrough infections occur and the highly infectious delta variant can be spread even by those who have been vaccinated, high-risk individuals or their families have a right to be concerned.

My household of three adults includes two elderly high risk individuals (two-time cancer survivor, still taking medication; diabetic, atrial fibrillation, blood pressure) and an unvaccinated 3-year-old who is cared for in my home three or more days a week. This month, one adult has received a jury summons from the Municipal Court; another was called to serve on the Grand Jury. The latter requires the juror to be on-call every Thursday and Friday for at least three months.

No one in my household works outside the home, so we have been able to use curbside pickup and other methods to isolate and avoid indoor activities over the last 17 months. We feel the current protocols don’t provide sufficient protection from unnecessary risks, particularly for our precious 3-year-old. There is no safe place either potential juror can go to quarantine from the family, potentially for as long as three months. We’re writing to the officials, but given the politicization applied to the Covid situation, we’re not optimistic.

The Portager agreed not to publish the author’s name to protect the family’s privacy.