(Photo via Shafin Protic/Pixabay)

Thirteen cases of COVID-19 have been detected among Santa Clara County juvenile facilities, the first outbreak there since the start of the pandemic in March, county officials said on Wednesday.

Nine youth and four staff members have tested positive at the Juvenile Hall and William F. James Ranch facilities.

The first case was reported on Saturday when a detained youth in James Ranch tested positive after exhibiting symptoms. Then, on Monday another youth who was detained at Juvenile Hall also exhibited COVID-19 symptoms and subsequently tested positive.

COVID-19-positive youth and staff, as well as close contacts have begun a 14-day quarantine and the Probation Department notified all caregivers of the COVID-19-positive youth.

“They are all receiving excellent medical care,” county officials said. “As a precautionary measure, all youth who are housed in James Ranch have been tested for COVID-19, regardless of whether they were in close contact with the youth who tested positive.”

Testing has also been conducted for all probation staff members at the two juvenile facilities and testing is underway for youth at Juvenile Hall.

Criminal justice reform advocates from Silicon Valley Debug are calling on the county to release the youth from detention centers, especially after the outbreak.

The local community organization tweeted, “Youth and incarceration should never be in the same sentence – but especially during a lethal pandemic.”

Santa Clara County Deputy Public Defender Sajid Khan also said exposed detained youth to COVID-19 is a failure in the state’s wardship.

“Wardship is defined as care and protection of the children,” Khan said on Twitter. “Wardship is not exposing and subjecting them to a deadly virus.”

The county said the Probation Department is working with justice system partners to determine if additional youth can be safely released to reduce transmission risks.

In addition, it is also investigating the source of the exposures and “will make any needed enhancements to its protocols,” county officials said.

The adult jails in the county have already had outbreaks in the facilities and released inmates to reduce transmission.

Since the start of the pandemic, 209 adult inmates have tested positive for the virus as well as 44 staff members, according to the county’s dashboard.

More COVID-19 statistics can be found at https://countysheriff.sccgov.org/covid-19/covid-19-dashboard.