I-TEAM: COVID-19 outbreak reported at Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court

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CLEVELAND (WJW) — The FOX 8 I-TEAM is investigating workers testing positive for COVID-19 at the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court, and we’re asking what court administrators told other staff members.

Multiple sources tell the I-TEAM some people working at the court found out only by word-of-mouth instead of any official notification.

Days after the I-TEAM started asking questions, the court released a memo that a spokesperson told us had been sent to supervisors in the Clerk’s office.

It said, in part, “There has been some recent positive cases of COVID-19 throughout Juvenile Court. To my understanding the Court is aware and have taken all the necessary steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. This includes thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing all areas where cases were reported. In addition, other preventive measures such as asking people to self-isolate/quarantine, recommending individuals exposed get tested, and contact tracing, which entails identifying and notifying people who are likely to get sick due to being in prolonged contact with those who tested positive. Due to HIPPA laws identities of people testing positive cannot be disclosed. “

The court says that memo was sent to senior supervisors in the clerk’s office, and it was then sent to all court clerks.

What we found prompted a response from the union representing some workers in the juvenile justice center.

“COVID has been with us for months and months. The court has  forced people to burn personal sick time out of precaution during exposures only to have those same members then contract COVID upon their return to work but, now with no sick time,” said Colin Sikon, business agent with Laborer’s Local 860.

The I-TEAM also asked for any evidence the court notified local heath officials.

Court officials wrote in an email, “If an employee is tested for COVID-19, the CDC is notified by the testing facility and the CDC does any additional notifications to the Board of Health. The Court receives notification by the CDC via email, and the Court does contact tracing from there.”

This comes as the number of COVID-19 cases statewide is skyrocketing. It also comes weeks after the I-TEAM revealed a COVID-19 scare at Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court that sent some workers home in fear.

The I-TEAM obtained security video from a checkpoint. Multiple sources say a court worker took a teen up to a hearing even after that teen had been turned away by medical screeners due to COVID-19 concerns.

A statement later given by one court official said the worker “told the medical staff the youth was lying.” And, “then directed medical staff to provide him with a wristband so he could go to the courtroom.”

After the I-TEAM reported on that, Laborers Local 860 filed a complaint with the health department asking for an investigation. The court did not make anyone available to speak on camera for that story or provide any comment for our latest inquiry beyond the email responses to direct questions days after we began looking into the latest COVID-19 cases.

”Local 860 understands that everyone was “learning” to deal with this however, their unwillingness to collaborate and include the union (with our expertise in respirators) in planning for safety was disappointing,” Colin Sikon added.

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