by State Senator Dave Marsden
Several weeks ago, I posted a status report on what was happening in the Bon Air facility of the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). There were many concerns about the COVID-19 dangers that young people there were confronted with.
At this time, I’d like to report some good news. I have been in weekly contact with Valerie Boykin, DJJ Director, and they currently have no active COVID-19 cases among the youth housed at the Bon Air facility. During the height of the COVID-19 crisis, they had a total of 26 youth test positive, out of the 205 or so youth that were placed there at the start of this crisis. In the weeks after this initial spike, thanks in large part to the actions that I will detail below, only 3 additional youth tested positive, for a total of 29 with no new cases in over a month. Out of these 29 positive cases, only 4 had any visible symptoms that looked like a cold or the flu, and they were better in only a day or two.
The Bon Air facility did an excellent job of dealing with this crisis by instituting an aggressive screening and testing protocol, placing positive youth in medical isolation units, protecting others with a temporary medical quarantine, screening staff and sending those for testing as the need arose, having everyone – staff and residents – wear proper protective equipment and having the units deep cleaned by a professional cleaning company.
As I said earlier, the facility can now report that it has no active positive cases and is back to near normal operations, with the exception of some of the rules around cleaning, hygiene, protective equipment, and social distancing that are now part of daily life at the facility, as well as for all of us in the community. In an effort to aid in social distancing, they have also released about 39 youth who they could safely return to the community. They did this in a careful and deliberative fashion, keeping the health and success of the youth AND public safety in mind.While there is always the possibility of new infections, the facility is prepared in making sure that staff and residents are continually screened and are tested, when appropriate and that youth are conducting their daily routines in a safe manner. DJJ has posted updates on their website that provide a lot of details about the status of the facility.
I was Chief Deputy and Acting Director of the Department of Juvenile Justice for two and a half years under the Gilmore and Warner Administrations. I could not be more proud of Director Boykin, her staff at Bon Air, the children who had to undergo a stressful time, Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran, the team at Health and Human Resources, and the Governor and his policy team. They have done an outstanding job of protecting public safety, as well as, the health and welfare of the youth that they are charged with serving.
It is good to be able to report that a plan was put in place to deal with a critical problem and up to this point it has been successful. Kudos to everyone who made this effort a success