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Silver Oak Academy in Keymar sees coronavirus outbreak; state public defender calls for testing at all juvenile facilities

Silver Oak Academy, a residential program in Keymar that offers middle and high school classes and additional programming for at-risk and disadvantaged boys and young men, has seen a coronavirus outbreak affecting some 40 students and staff members.
Silver Oak Academy, a residential program in Keymar that offers middle and high school classes and additional programming for at-risk and disadvantaged boys and young men, has seen a coronavirus outbreak affecting some 40 students and staff members. (Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun)

About 40 students and staff members at Silver Oak Academy in Keymar have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, prompting the state’s Public Defender’s Office to ask that all children in the state’s juvenile justice system be tested for the disease.

Maggie Kunz, spokeswoman for the Carroll County Health Department, confirmed Monday there is an outbreak at the privately-run school, but that most of the patients are asymptomatic.

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“We’re providing guidance, providing resources as needed," said Maggie Kunz, a Carroll County Health Department spokesperson, who noted that staff was sent to Silver Oak on Friday.

Silver Oak Academy is a residential program that offers middle and high school classes and additional programming for at-risk and disadvantaged boys and young men.

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According to the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services (DJS), 18 DJS youths, nine non-DJS youths and 13 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. There are 60 beds at the facility, according to Amy Ast, spokesperson for Silver Oak Academy.

In a statement, the public defender’s office said the Department of Juvenile Services should test all children who are detained or in placement for COVID-19, saying they’d raised previous concerns about conditions at the facility.

“OPD had raised concerns to DJS about Silver Oak’s insufficient COVID-response measures on two prior occasions, but those complaints were belated and insufficiently addressed,” the statement reads. “While Silver Oak is the only facility in the state to conduct widespread testing, it is not unique in its COVID-19 threat.”

Deborah St. Jean, chief of the public defender’s Juvenile Protection Division, said that 2/3 of juvenile detention centers “have had staff, youth, or both test positive for COVID-19.”

In a letter to Department of Juvenile Services Secretary Sam Abed, St. Jean asks Abed to “at least test those children it knows have been exposed to staff and youth who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are as a result being held in solitary confinement.”

“The alternative — telling a child that they have been exposed to a deadly and terrifying pandemic that is killing people across the globe and then locking them alone in cells for 23 hours a day — is cruel and does little to protect anyone,” St. Jean wrote.

Twenty-six students and 15 staff tested positive, according to a statement provided by Ast on Monday night.

When asked about the discrepancy in numbers from what DJS is reporting, Lynea Hansen, another spokesperson for Silver Oak, wrote, “There are 26 youth on campus, all of whom are positive. The staff test results are subject to change, as not all have received their results."

A staff member first tested positive, then a student last week, according to the statement provided by Ast. This prompted universal testing of all students and staff May 15. Silver Oak has nearly 60 staff, and those who tested positive are eligible for paid leave, according to the statement.

“The majority of staff and students have been, and are currently, asymptomatic,” the statement from Ast reads.

All COVID-19 negative students have been moved off-campus to a state-operated quarantine site. The remaining 26 students will stay at Silver Oak to “complete their medical isolation period and will be monitored by medical staff, including a nurse and physician,” according to the statement, following the recommendations of the county and state health departments.

No youth or staff have been hospitalized, according Hansen. She said Silver Oak has sufficient personal protective equipment.

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“Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Silver Oak Academy (SOA) has implemented its pandemic protocol and followed [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines and Carroll County Health Department recommendations regarding hygiene, sanitation, social distancing, and use of masks to avoid COVID-19 exposure,” the statement from Ast reads. Silver Oak continues to follow the guidance of DJS, Carroll County Health Department, and Maryland Department of Health officials.

“[Silver Oak Academy] will continue to provide quality education, programming, and supervision to our youth. We are grateful for the support and dedication of our essential staff, teachers, and therapists who continue their tireless work with our students, families, stakeholders, and communities,” the statement reads.

The county health department is not currently including the Silver Oak cases in its total, according to Kunz, who said they are awaiting awaiting guidance from the state on how to proceed.

Not counting Silver Oak, the county saw 29 new cases between Friday evening and Monday evening, according to Carroll County Health Department data, bringing to 655 the total number of cases in Carroll.

Additionally, two residents of Carroll Lutheran Village, a senior community in Westminster, have died, bringing the county’s death toll to 75, with 69 from long-term care facilities, 11 at CLV.

There have been 334 cases at long-term care facilities, 13 since Friday.

The health department lists all facilities that have seen a new case in the past two weeks. There are currently 16 such facilities with Longview Nursing Home (15 resident cases) and Flying Colors of Success group home (one staff member) added to the list since Friday.

Of the 311 people confirmed by the county to have the virus in the wider community, as of Monday, seven are younger than 10 years old; 16 are in the 10-19 range; 48 are 20-29 years old; 49 are 30-39; 44 are 40-49; 96 are 50-59; 35 are 60-69; eight are 70-79; and eight are 80-89.

Of those 311, 147 are women, 163 are men and one has not been confirmed, according to the health department.

Carroll County considers 167 people to be recovered from the disease, the same number as Friday. The health department has now announced 50 hospitalizations for COVID-19, up by one since Friday.

According to health department data, Westminster has the most cases in Carroll, with 279 across two ZIP codes, followed by Mount Airy with 139, Sykesville/Eldersburg with 129, Manchester with 32, Hampstead with 24, Taneytown with 23, Finksburg with 12 and New Windsor with 12. Data is suppressed in ZIP codes with seven cases or fewer.

Anyone who thinks they or a family member might be showing coronavirus symptoms can call the Carroll County Health Department’s COVID-19 hotline, which is available 8 a.m. through 5 p.m. seven days a week at 410-876-4848, or contact their doctor. After hours, callers may leave a message or call 211. People with emergencies should continue to call 911.

Staff Writer Phil Davis contributed to this report

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