By James Queally and Sue Epstein/The Star-Ledger
FREEHOLD — For the second time in four days, the Monmouth County Courthouse had to be shut down after several people fell ill inside the facility, authorities said.
More than 10 people became sick for an unknown reason and were removed from the courthouse, which was closed at 1 p.m., according to Cynthia Scott, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Office. Reports of people suffering shortness of breath, nausea, chest pain, palpitations, rashes and dizziness on Friday forced county officials to clean the courthouse over the weekend.
“This afternoon, County Emergency Management and Health Department staff responded to the courthouse and conducted a thorough investigation,” Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden said in a statement on Friday. “The courthouse will be thoroughly cleaned and be open for business on Monday.”
Investigators believe the illness can be traced back to cut flowers that were brought into an employee area of the courthouse on Friday, when 20 people were taken to the hospital. All the flowers were removed on Friday, according to county officials, who said there was no danger of person-to-person transmission of the illness.
The Sheriff’s Office will hold a 4 p.m. press conference near the courthouse to discuss the incident further, Scott said. The Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office, the county office of emergency management, department of health and N.J. State Police Haz-Mat units are on the scene, according to Scott.
As of 3 p.m., Haz-Mat teams had attached a long orange chute to a third floor window near the east wing of the building, where the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office was once located. Several windows in the area had been boarded up.
Star-Ledger Staff Writer Alexi Friedman contributed to this report.