Mom, I just don’t know how to stay well’: Inside the nation’s worst known outbreak of covid-19 at a youth prison.
By Justin Jouvenal
Her 17-year-old son was despondent on the call, wondering how much longer he could avoid the virus that made Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center in Virginia the scene of the nation’s worst known outbreak of covid-19 at a prison for youths.
The teen was nervously awaiting the results of his second coronavirus test as resident after resident fell ill around him. The first — negative — came after a fever.
Prison officials had stopped visitors, suspended schooling, ended counseling and locked at least some teens in their cells 23 hours a day to stem the pandemic, the mother said. Still, it wasn’t enough.
The mother said her son’s cellmate, with whom he shared a bunk bed, began showing symptoms of covid-19. Her son phoned her in a depression after undergoing yet another test.
“He said, ‘Mom, I just don’t know how to stay well anymore,’ ” the mother recalled. “That would break any mother’s heart, because I didn’t know what to tell him, either.”