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California

First youths test positive for coronavirus in L.A. County juvenile halls

Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall
Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Two youths in L.A. County juvenile detention tested positive for the novel coronavirus this week after officials began testing newly booked detainees, authorities said Thursday.

The juveniles, both of whom are asymptomatic, have not been in contact with other youths, said Adam Wolfson, communications director for the L.A. County Probation Department. One was admitted to Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar, the other to Central Juvenile Hall in Los Angeles, Wolfson said. Their ages were not released.

Nineteen probation employees have tested positive for the coronavirus, including seven assigned to Nidorf Hall, but Thursday marked the first time juveniles had been known to have the virus. All of the employees who contracted the virus have since recovered and returned to work, Wolfson said.

County officials began testing newly sentenced youths Monday, he said, adding that 30 juveniles have been tested in total.

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The two youths who tested positive this week will be isolated from the general population of each juvenile hall, and probation employees working with them are “receiving enhanced personal protective equipment as well as infection control training” from county health officials, Wolfson said.

As part of efforts to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, the average daily population of California’s juvenile detention system fell by about 1,000 youths between late February and late April, state records show. In L.A. County, the number of youths in custody has fallen from 819 on March 1 to 550 as of Thursday, a drop of roughly 33%.

Still, some advocates and attorneys have called for a wider release of juveniles for fear conditions in L.A. County’s juvenile halls and camps remain ripe for an outbreak.

Last month, a petition was filed with the California Supreme Court asking for the release of juveniles with health conditions that place them at higher risk of contracting the coronavirus, as well as those being held on either a probation violation or failure to appear in court. A hearing in that case is scheduled for Monday.


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