Staff, children recovering after COVID outbreak at Nashville juvenile detention center

Image courtesy of Getty Images.
Image courtesy of Getty Images.

Eleven children and eight staff members tested positive for COVID-19 at the Davidson County Juvenile Detention Center in June. All have since recovered.

The east Nashville facility is one of five juvenile detention centers around Tennessee that have had positive coronavirus cases among staff or youth, according to data obtained from the Department of Children’s Services.

The detention center is operated under contract with Youth Opportunity Investments, which referred questions about the outbreak, testing and ongoing treatment of children to juvenile court administrators.

“Let me assure you that the youth and the employees at the DCJDC are being protected according to guidelines handed down by the CDC and approved by the court,” Gary Sallee, chief legal officer for the private company that manages the detention center.

“The statistics indicate that the numbers of positive cases within the facility fall far below the equivalent statistics for the population at large,” Salle said in an email.  “Any specific questions regarding the youth should be directed to the juvenile court staff as YOI manages the facility for the court.”

Kathy Sinback, administrator for the juvenile court, said that all children and staff in the facility were tested for the virus approximately three weeks ago. Children who tested positive were placed in medical isolation or quarantine.

Several of the youth displayed “mild COVID symptoms such as headache, vomiting, and stomachache.  Some were asymptomatic throughout the entire course of their infectious period,” she said. New admissions are currently placed in quarantine for two weeks before joining the general population, she said.

There are currently 39 youth, both boys and girls, housed in the facility on Woodland Street.

Across the nation, there are 1,520 known COVID-19 diagnoses among youth and 1,718 among staff of juvenile detention facilities, according to The Sentencing Project, a Washington, DC nonprofit which is tracking outbreaks among kids in detention.

As of July 31, 17 incarcerated youth and 18 staff members have tested positive for coronavirus at five Tennessee juvenile detention centers, including Nashville’s.

The other detention centers are: the Bedford County Juvenile Detention Center, Rutherford County Juvenile Detention Center, Middle Tennessee Juvenile Detention Center in Columbia, Tenn, and the Shelby County Juvenile Detention Center.