Courthouse station closing after 'serving a good purpose'

James Beaty, McAlester News-Capital, Okla.
·2 min read

Apr. 30—Two men who have operated a temperature check station at the Pittsburg County for nearly a year feel they have had a positive impact.

Plans call for the station to be closed by 3 p.m. Friday, April 30.

Pittsburg County Commissioners voted unanimously this week to stop the temperature checks and the requirement to wear a mask or other protective facial covering to enter the courthouse; judges can still require safety protocols to enter courtrooms.

Commissioners also planned to stop requiring those entering the courthouse to use the handicapped entrance on the west side of the building. Plans called for the main entrance to be reopened by Friday afternoon.

Although the temperature check station will no longer be utilized, those who worked it believe it fulfilled a need.

"We served a good purpose," said Clint Harrell, who most days manned the station alongside Jimmy Wilson.

The station allowed them to check who was coming into the courthouse and for what reasons.

"It gives us an opportunity to see who comes in here," Harrell said, shortly after they administered a temperature check to Marissa Sam, who easily passed it.

Both Wilson and Harrell are hopeful they helped slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in Pittsburg County. They were charged with checking the temperatures of everyone who wanted to enter the building to make sure they did not have a fever, through using one of the now-familiar hand-held devices used for temperature checks. Those determined to have a fever were denied entrance.

With masks or other protective facial coverings required to enter the courthouse, they kept a steady supply of masks on-hand to give to anyone who passed the temperature check but did not have a mask with them.

"A lot of people came in who didn't have a mask," Harrell said.

They figure they've checked thousands of temperature and given away thousands of masks during the time the temperature check station has been in operation since last year. Many courthouse visitors kept the masks after they completed their courthouse business, which the two also hope contributed to slowing the spread of COVID-19.

They tried to be helpful in other ways, such as by giving directions to those entering the courthouse on how to find the offices they needed to locate.

The two also dispensed thousands of colorful stickers, used to denote that an individual had passed a temperature check on a given day.

Although some individuals hung on to the masks they were given, many discarded the stickers that had been stuck to their jackets or shirts as soon as they left the courthouse — leaving to a rainbow-like collection of stickers on the sidewalks leading away from the handicapped entrance.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.