A staff member at a shelter that houses unaccompanied minors in Westchester County has tested positive for COVID-19, Documented has learned. This is the second case of a New York area shelter worker testing positive for the virus. The Office of Refugee Resettlement, which oversees the shelters, announced on Thursday that a separate staffer in New York tested positive.
A source with knowledge of the matter told Documented that a staff member at Abbott House, a shelter in Irvington, New York, had tested positive for COVID-19 and the shelter placed all exposed children in quarantine for 14 days. According to Reveal, in 2017 the shelter had a capacity for 35 children.
According to The New York Times, the first case was at Mercy First, a shelter on Long Island.
Abbott House CEO James L. Kaufman told Documented on Friday that he could not “confirm or disconfirm” if one of their staffers had tested positive for the virus due to the employee’s privacy rights under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
Children who arrive at the border alone or are separated from adults they arrived with are placed in shelters overseen by ORR. Children are housed in the shelter until they can be placed with “sponsors,” often family members who live in the U.S. Shelters like Abbott House and Mercy First received children who were separated from their parents due to the Trump administration’s ‘Zero Tolerance’ policies in the summer of 2018.
ORR announced that it has stopped placement of children in California and Washington state and is limiting placements in New York. As of Thursday, there were no confirmed cases among the 3,600 children in ORR custody, however, four have been tested. Two of the tests were negative and two are pending.
The New York Civil Liberties Union, which is representing unaccompanied children in two class-action lawsuits, wrote a letter to ORR calling for the “development and release of comprehensive plans to mitigate the spread of coronavirus in its facilities.” The group called for the agency to publish a plan on how it would be dealing with the pandemic by Friday, March 27.
ORR did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication.