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COVID outbreak at Santa Clara County juvenile centers

Coronavirus

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. (KRON) – The outbreaks in Santa Clara County aren’t limited to nursing homes.

They’re also dealing with the first cluster of COVID cases at juvenile detention facilities.

County officials say more than a dozen people, including youth and staff, have been infected. 

County officials say this has been the first outbreak since the pandemic began in March and they say all of those who have been infected are receiving excellent care but advocates say this could’ve been prevented by taking better steps including releasing incarcerated youth. 

Santa Clara County’s Juvenile Hall and William F. James Ranch Facilities have experienced an outbreak of COVID-19. 

Nine boys and four staff members make up the infected.

“It’s troubling to see that while in our county care that these already vulnerable kids have been subject to this deadly virus,” Sajid Khan said.

Deputy Public Defender Sajid Khan with the Santa Clara County alternate defenders office believes the county has failed in its responsibility to keep incarcerated youth safe.

As cases have been surging across the area he says now is the time to release those in custody.

“Unless there is a demonstrated need to hold these children in custody, then they should be out because obviously, a facility has proven itself incapable of helping them and keeping them healthy,” Khan said.

Up until November 28, Santa Clara County had not reported a single case of transmission within its juvenile detention centers. 

The first was reported at James Ranch in Morgan Hill and the second came the next day at the Juvenile Center in San Jose. 

Criminal justice reform group “Silicon Valley De-Bug” took to Twitter over the outbreak saying:

“”Youth” and “incarceration” should never be in the same sentence – but especially during a lethal pandemic. #FreeThemAll now!!!”

Santa Clara County’s adult jails have already experienced outbreaks and have been releasing inmates to bring down the risk of transmission.

Khan says the same needs to be done at juvenile centers.

“Hoping this is a wake up call,” Khan said.

The county says they’re still investigating the source of the exposures. 

The probation department is right now working with justice system partners to assess whether they can safely release some youth to bring down the risk of transmission within the facilities.

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