Almost 100 children and teens living in residential facilities in California have caught the coronavirus, state officials confirmed this week, including infections at four group care programs in Los Angeles County.
The number of infected children is a fraction of the more than 2,600 foster youth in residential programs in the state. But it is nonetheless a sign of the rampage the virus has been on of late – striking not only prisons and nursing homes, but centers for children who have been taken from their parents due to abuse or neglect. Some youth have been sent to quarantine in trailers.
“We should be worried because there are a lot less eyes on these facilities, especially now during the pandemic,” said Jacqueline Robles, a 21-year-old former foster youth working as a peer advocate for the law firm representing Los Angeles County children.
Across the state, 95 youth living in congregate care facilities that serve as placements for foster youth have tested positive for the coronavirus since March, according to the California Department of Social Services. The facilities are designed to house children who need a higher level of care and treatment than foster homes or relatives can provide, and typically most have been moved multiple times during their childhoods.
News about the coronavirus cases at children’s residential facilities come at a time when the pandemic has worsened up and down the state. At a daily briefing on Wednesday, Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said that COVID-19-related deaths are expected to rise in the weeks to come because of a recent uptick in hospitalizations, which have grown by 30% over the past month. A day before, California officials announced 11,694 coronavirus cases — a record one-day total for the state — followed by its highest-ever daily death toll during the pandemic: 149 deaths.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said if that trend continues, the county could be in for a return of even stricter stay-at-home measures.