St. Augustine facility reports highest number of virus cases among youth at Florida juvenile detention centers

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
(AP Photo/Charles Krupa) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There have been 216 reported cases of COVID-19 in young people at juvenile detention centers in Florida, according to statistics released Thursday by the Department of Juvenile Justice.

Of those cases, the most positive cases in young people were reported at St. Johns Youth Academy in St. Augustine, where 26 cases were reported. There were no reported cases among employees there.

The Department of Juvenile Justice serves approximately 1,700 young people in 72 of these facilities statewide, according to its own data.

The data showed another five young people have tested positive at Duval Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Jacksonville. Keller Walling and Ben Subercaseaux, the parents of a 17-year-old boy at the facility, said they’re concerned for their son’s health and believe he should be sent home.

They said their son, who they asked not to identified by name, is waiting to be transferred to a permanent rehabilitation facility.

“What we have heard is there is an average of about two weeks for placement and he’s already been in there a month,” Subercaseaux said.

The parents worry about their son’s mental health and that he could possibly be exposed to the virus.

“He wants to move forward to being in a better setting where it’s more constructive and he can learn and make his way back to society,” Subercaseaux said.

“This isn’t just me advocating my son,” Walling said. “I’m advocating for all the children there that don’t have a voice.”

According to the teen’s parents, the young people are being isolated 24 hours a day regardless of whether they’ve tested positive for COVID-19.

The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice released a statement that they’re taking precautions. It reads:

When it comes to the placement delays, the spokesperson said: “We are doing everything we can to ensure these placements are done as quickly and as safely as possible.”

The data from the state showed zero young people tested positive at Duval Academy and Hastings Comprehensive Mental Health Treatment. The list is updated on a weekly basis.

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