Covid-19 reaches Ohio juvenile detention centers, advocates call for mass testing in Cleveland

Updated: May. 28, 2020 at 10:59 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Efforts were made and precautions taken, but it wasn’t enough to stop the coronavirus from reaching Ohio’s juvenile detention facilities, including the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center.

The Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center houses some of the areas most troubled and vulnerable teens. Its mission is to provide for the care, welfare, safety and security of the juveniles in its care. But Covid-19 made its way in, infecting at least three youths.

Some advocates are calling for mass testing behind bars, including juvenile detention centers. “Saying you only have three cases is not a leg to stand on if you haven’t tested everyone,” said Kenza Kamal, policy director for the Juvenile Justice Coalition. “Mass testing could at least show if there could be a crisis in juvenile facilities we don’t even know about.”

Mass testing at Marion and Pickaway correctional facilities showed such a high rate of infection, continuing mass testing was deemed ineffective by state officials.

A spokesperson with the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court spokesperson declined to do an interview, but tells 19 News via email the Detention Center remains in constant contact with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health and medical staff from University Hospitals. And, proactive interventions are in place such as: providing residents with ear-loop masks and limiting unnecessary resident travel throughout the building.

The residents who tested positive for Covid-19 were required to remain housed in the medical isolation rooms. Thirteen residents potentially exposed were tested and found to be negative.

In an attempt to reduce population at the detention center during the pandemic, the court released some youth charged with misdemeanor crimes or low-level non-violent felonies.

The Juvenile Justice Coalition would like to see that number increase. “Consider releasing youth to community based alternative, starting with kids who are vulnerable,” said Kamal.

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