The pandemic is real and the quarantines are indeed flattening the curve. While courts across the country have switched to remote proceedings wherever possible, a judge in one of America’s hottest hot spots decided to ignore social distancing guidelines and force those in his courtroom to do the same. Two weeks later he died of pneumonia related to the novel coronavirus.
When one attorney commented that the filled courtroom went against social distancing guidelines, Justice Johnny Lee Barnes invited her to leave.
On the very day that Governor Cuomo ordered any gathering under 500 people to be cut in half, Judge Banes’ courtroom was filled with people. Given that this was his last day on the bench before he passed away two weeks later, the judge was likely a carrier of the novel coronavirus for a couple of weeks prior.
The sad questions are: how many people did the Judge Banes personally infect? And how many people were infected when forced into close proximity in his courtroom?
While Judge Barnes was shortsighted in this crucial area, he is remembered as “a great man,” a level headed man, “a gentle giant.” He was also instrumental in protecting and expanding health care in Brooklyn. His passing is a loss to the local community.
We as a nation are working together to slow the spread of this virus, the likes of which has never been seen before in modern history. The number of people who are following social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders is inspiring.
While this virus will continue to take its toll, flattening the transmission curve has many benefits. Slowing the spread takes a huge amount of pressure off of healthcare workers and helps protect those who are at high risk. Not allowing the virus to spread too fast also gives us time to further understand it and learn how to treat and prevent the novel coronavirus.
While Judge Barnes did not understand the severity of the risk he was exposing other to, his death gives us a greater understanding of the importance of making wise decisions during these uncertain times.
Image used courtesy of Citizens Count.