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Given increased accessibility to approved COVID-19 vaccines, the Missouri Supreme Court has revised its operational directives to further guide courts statewide in remaining open while ensuring the safety of their employees and the public.

The court's order, issued Friday, replaces the prior operational directives in place since May 2020 and last modified in July 2020.

Under the new operational directives:

- Local courts may operate in one of four operating phases, each reflecting differing approaches to in-person proceedings, personnel and staffing, and courthouse operations.

- A court may not move to a higher operating phase unless it has been in the prior operating phase for at least 14 days, but it may revert immediately to a prior operating phase when local conditions and circumstances so require.

- Courts operating in phases 1-4 should consider using high-efficiency air filters to maintain air quality given the specific size of each courtroom, office or space in the court facility.

- A local court may move to Phase 4 only upon approved COVID-19 vaccines being readily accessible in the community in which the courthouse or court facility is located.

- Phase 4 operations continue precautionary measures when interacting with the public while easing such restrictions among court personnel.

- Regardless of their vaccination status, all individuals are required to follow social-distancing protocols and wear masks or face coverings in court proceedings and in public areas of the court facility.

- Court personnel with limited or no interaction with the public in their workspaces are not required to wear face masks or coverings or comply with social-distancing protocols.

In February, the Cole County Courthouse moved to Phase 3 operating status, which means courts can resume criminal jury trials while in compliance with local social-distancing protocols and occupancy limits.

Hearings and trials were suspended in early December because Cole County Courthouse personnel had tested positive for COVID-19.

All who enter the courthouse in Jefferson City must have their temperature checked before going into courtrooms and common areas. Everyone must also continue to wear a mask while inside the courthouse.

Social distancing is still practiced in the Cole County Courthouse, meaning only a certain number of people are allowed in a courtroom at one time.

With the exception of Osage County, all other courthouses in Central Missouri are operating at the Phase 3 status. Osage County is at Phase 2, which means courtrooms and other public spaces are limited to 25 people if possible.

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