HARTFORD (AP) — The Connecticut Judicial Branch is conducting safety inspections and making modifications at five courthouses, where operations have been suspended because of the pandemic, in hopes of reopening the locations by May 17.

In a statement released Friday, Chief Court Administrator Patrick L. Carroll III said the goal is to make the upgrades necessary to allow for the safe, and socially distanced return of judges and staff at courthouses in Derby, New London, Manchester, Putnam, and Rockville.

“As more and more COVID restrictions are being lifted or modified and as more and more Connecticut residents are being vaccinated against the virus, the Judicial Branch is now in a position to cautiously and incrementally move forward with plans to further increase the scope and volume of judicial business being conducted by its judges and employees,” Carroll said in a written statement.

A spokeswoman for the Judicial Branch said all but three courthouses will remain closed after May 17. Those three include Geographic Area courts in Enfield and Norwalk, and the juvenile court in Waterbury.

Meanwhile, Carroll said the branch is also planning to expand the scope and volume of criminal dockets in all open GA courthouses and reduce the backlog of pending cases.

“As the Judicial Branch embarks upon this effort to resume operations in more of its facilities and increase the volume of judicial business being conducted each day, we will continue to carefully monitor operations and make any adjustments that may be necessary,” he wrote. “The goal is to safely return to near normal operations over the next few months.”

Meanwhile, Connecticut on Friday edged closer to 8,000 COVID-19-associated deaths. Data released by Gov. Ned Lamont's office indicate five more reported deaths since Thursday, for a total of 7,995. There were more than 1,000 new confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 as well.

Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases has decreased by 105.3, a decrease of 8.2%, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins.

In other coronavirus-related news:

Unemployment benefits

Department of Labor Commissioner Kurt Westby announced Friday that enrollment will start next week for the new federal Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation program, which will provide an additional $100 per week for eligible filers with both self-employment earnings and W2 income.

Claimants will be able to apply online for the program, established under the CARES Act II pandemic relief law, beginning April 20. The Department of Labor has begun notifying people who may be eligible to apply.

In the meantime, the agency is urging potential claimants to read carefully about the law, which requires extensive documentation, and begin preparing the necessary documents before starting an application.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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