JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More than 300 youths in juvenile-justice facilities have tested positive for COVID-19, as the number of cases in the state system continues to steadily increase.
As of Thursday afternoon, 306 youths had tested positive, up from 290 on Tuesday, according to information from the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. Also, 235 workers at juvenile-justice facilities had tested positive, up from 221 on Tuesday.
In Duval County, the Duval Regional Center has reported 15 total youth COVID-19 cases. That’s up from five that were reported a week prior.
Sam and Bobbie Sprout say their 16-year-old son, who is in the facility, tested positive for COVID-19 on July 26. They say their son has asthma.
“We get a phone call for about ten minutes a day and that’s all,” Bobbie Sprout said. “He’s been in there nine weeks.”
“We definitely want him to do the program but let’s hurry up and get something done,” Sam Sprout said.
The largest numbers of youth cases have occurred at St. Johns Youth Academy, which has had 26, and Okaloosa Youth Academy, which has had 23. Systemwide, 100 of the 306 youths who had tested positive were no longer in medical isolation Thursday, the department said. Okaloosa Youth Academy has had the largest number of workers cases, with 21.
Overall, 101 of the 235 workers who had tested positive have been medically cleared to return to their jobs. The department has taken a series of steps, including suspending visitation at the facilities, to try to prevent the spread of the disease.
A state statue allows for children to remain in a detention center until they are place in long-term care. A statement from a Department of Juvenile Justice spokesperson reads: “There has not been a substantial change in the average time for placements due to COVID-19 or during COVID-19.”
The statement continues, ”I can certainly understand the concerns of our parents, but we cannot compromise when it comes to safety. The health and well being of our youth and staff will always be our top priority, so we are doing everything we can to ensure these placements are done safely.”
The News Service of Florida contributed to this story