The union that represents Youth Development Specialists, Program Counselors and other staff at the city’s juvenile detention centers slammed a plan by the Administration for Children’s Services to send juvenile offenders displaying symptoms of coronavirus to Horizon Juvenile Center.
Teens who showed no symptoms of coronavirus were moved from the Bronx facility to Brooklyn’s Crossroads April 1, according to Darek Robinson, the vice president for grievances for District Council 37’s Local 371.
One Positive So Far
The agency confirmed that one teen has tested positive for coronavirus so far. It stated that adolescent and juvenile offenders will have their temperature checked every day to determine if they have symptoms of coronavirus.
The most common indicators of the virus are a fever, cough and shortness of breath. If they show symptoms, the teens will be transported to a special housing unit at Horizon.
"The safety and health of the youth and the staff in our secure detention facilities is our number one priority. After careful consideration, and in consultation with medical experts, we determined that this consolidation plan is the best way for us to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among youth and staff, as it will minimize exposure,” said ACS spokeswoman Chanel Caraway.
COVID-19 is contagious even before those who are sick show symptoms. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that about a quarter of coronavirus cases were asymptomatic, while a study in Ireland estimated that half of the people who have become infected showed no symptoms.
Mr. Robinson believed that the move itself was risky, and added that staffers were in an uproar over the plan.
How Can You Tell?
“It doesn’t make sense, because how can you tell who’s sick?” he asked. “It puts all of the residents and the staff at risk.”
ACS said that the decision to move the teens was developed in coordination with medical experts at Correctional Health Services, and that social-distancing practices and sanitizing were being implemented. Mr. Robinson contested both of those statements, adding that there were not enough Institutional Aides to properly clean the facilities.
The four remaining 17-year old offenders who were transferred from Rikers Island to Horizon after Raise the Age took effect in Oct. 2018 were still living at the Bronx facility, on a different floor from where the unit for symptomatic teens was located, according to the agency.
Mr. Robinson also worried about a shortage of personal protective equipment for staff, particularly face shields.
“They’re only giving masks to those working with COVID-19 residents and medical staff, which is mind-boggling to me,” he said. “We want them to at least provide the proper tools to continue doing this job.”
Sick Rate 'Highest Ever'
So far, 12 employees at Crossroads and 3 at Horizon have tested positive for coronavirus, according to the union. And the rate of workers calling out sick was “the highest ever,” Mr. Robinson said.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. April 2 distributed 500 face masks to Horizon employees, and 1,000 at Crossroads.
“The detainees, they have masks. But the workers are running out, so what we’re doing is making sure they have masks going forward,” Mr. Diaz said. “We understand that this pandemic is bigger than just those in the hospital.”
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