The judge for the Ghislaine Maxwell trial informed the jury Monday that deliberations would be extended to 6 p.m., an hour longer than normal, due to concerns about the surge in the Omicron variant in New York City.
“We are seeing an astronomical spike in the number of COVID-positive cases in New York City,” Judge Alison Nathan said, according to ABC News.
“We are very simply at a different place regarding the pandemic than we were only one week ago and we now face a high and escalating risk that jurors and/or trial participants may need to quarantine,” she added, according to CNN. “Accordingly, extending deliberations by an hour gives the jury more time each day to continue to engage in its thoughtful deliberations.”
Nathan noted that she would also ask jurors to continue their deliberation through New Years without a break for the holiday, citing the risk that the trial could be disrupted by the rising coronavirus cases.
“In light of the variant, my concern about the interruption of the trial, given the increasing daily risk of exposure to either a juror or trial participant requiring quarantine — it is time to think about having the jury make plans to deliberate until a verdict is reached,” she said, according to ABC News.
The Omicron surge resulted in hundreds of flights being canceled domestically and thousands worldwide over Christmas despite reports of Omicron being relatively mild yet highly infectious. (RELATED: Omicron Is 80% Less Likely To Hospitalize Than Prior COVID-19 Strains, Study Finds)
Nathan also offered the jurors the option to protest the decision to extend deliberations by an hour and would rescind it if they found it to be too much, with none doing so as of Tuesday, ABC News reported.
BREAKING: Ghislaine Maxwell judge says trial is at risk from Omicron and pressures jurors to return verdict quickly
— Jack Posobiec ✝️ (@JackPosobiec) December 28, 2021
Maxwell, long-time associate of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, was charged with multiple counts of sex trafficking of a minor, enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and three related counts of conspiracy, CNN reported. (RELATED: ‘A Sophisticated Predator’: Prosecution Delivers A Scathing Closing Argument In Ghislaine Maxwell’s Trial)
She faces up to 80 years in prison if found guilty by the jury.