Outbreak traced to secure centers

Brookwood Secure Center and the Columbia Girls Secure Center in Claverack have both reported new cases of COVID-19. Natasha Vaughn/Columbia-Greene Media

HUDSON — More than 20 new COVID-19 cases stemming from local secure centers have surfaced in Columbia County, according to the Columbia County Department of Health.

Brookwood Secure Center in Claverack reported two positive cases in staff members who live in the county, and the nearby Columbia Girls Secure Center reported five youths and four staff members who live in the county have tested positive.

The two state-run facilities also have 10 additional staff members who tested positive for COVID and live outside Columbia County, bringing the total of new cases to 21.

The facilities are for juvenile or youthful offenders who, while under the age of 16, committed certain violent felonies and were convicted and sentenced in adult criminal court, according to the state website. Youths may remain at the facilities up to age 21.

Representatives from both centers said they could not comment on the COVID cases and referred questions to the state Office of Children and Family Services.

“The Office of Children and Family Services is committed to the health and safety of the youth in our care, as well as that of the staff who serve them,” Jeannine M. Smith, deputy director of communications, said Thursday in a statement.

The centers had one or two positive cases months ago, Columbia County Health Department Director Jack Mabb said. The prior cases were staff members, not residents.

The 10 additional staff members who tested positive for COVID at the facilities live outside Columbia County, Mabb said. At least one is from Greene County, one is from Albany County, one is from Schenectady County and three are from Fulton County.

The county Department of Health is performing contact tracing. The department does not know at this time the origin of the new cases, Mabb said.

“OCFS continues to follow proper state guidelines by screening all individuals who enter facilities; providing appropriate personal protective equipment to youth, staff and visitors; and enforcing protocols regarding monitoring, quarantine and isolation and testing,” Smith said.

Columbia County has had 623 total cases of COVID-19 since March, according to the Department of Health. There are 32 active cases in the county. Sixty-one people are in mandatory quarantine. There have been 38 COVID-related deaths in the county since March.

Columbia County has 10 people with COVID who are hospitalized. Two are in the intensive care unit.

None of the hospitalizations are related to the cases at the secure centers.

Ghent Assisted Living recently reported having 26 positive COVID cases since the beginning of last week; prior to that, the facility did not have any positive cases.

No additional positives at either secure center or at Ghent Assisted Living were reported as of Wednesday morning, Mabb said.

“That’s no new positives from Brookwood, none from Ghent Assisted Living,” Mabb said. “It’s nice to see that. It does not mean it’s going to hold up when we go to check again later this afternoon.”

Columbia County will hold a COVID testing clinic Oct. 27, from 9-11 a.m., at the former John L. Edwards Elementary School in Hudson. The clinic is limited to 100 tests. It is not necessary to preregister, but photo ID is required.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends correctional and detention facilities make sure there are separate housing areas and bathrooms for individuals who have tested positive.

The CDC’s COVID-19 guidance for correctional facilities suggests they consider options to avoid overcrowding and that facilities identify legally acceptable alternatives to in-person court appearances, such as virtual court.

Facilities should also encourage frequent handwashing to avoid spreading COVID-19, according to the CDC.

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