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Essential Jobs: Probation Workers Test Positive For Coronavirus


This week we have been hearing from essential workers, and Eric Walton (ph) is one. He's a probation officer working at a juvenile hall in Los Angeles County.

ERIC WALTON: I've been with the Department for 11 1/2 years. I've worked in some of our challenging units.

GREENE: But now they are facing a new challenge. Where Walton works in the suburb of Sylmar, two probation officers tested positive for COVID-19. Most of the officers in that particular unit, along with the youth, were placed on quarantine.

GREENE: The kids were moved from that unit to a clean one, where their health has been monitored daily.


Hans Liang leads the county's probation officers union. He told us that one of the officers who tested positive was at work on Sunday.

HANS LIANG: She was caring for somebody. And she had a test that was done - didn't get the results, wasn't feeling that bad - feeling a little bit of symptoms - went to work and then discovered that her test was positive.

GREENE: Now, when the global outbreak first started, officers reported that it was hard to get masks, also gloves, also hand sanitizer.

LIANG: I think initial frustrations were just the fact that some of that equipment was not available.

GREENE: But Liang says officers now do have access to protective gear. They've also put in place social distancing policies.

LIANG: But in the case of the juvenile halls, if the kids are fighting or whatever, you know, in those situations, you're not going to be able to adhere to social distancing, especially when you're trying to break up a fight.

WALTON: I mean, at the end of the day, this is juvenile hall. It's going to happen. But it's not happening as often as one would probably suspect.

KING: Eric Walton, the probation officer in Sylmar, says he's found social distancing to be manageable. But he's worried about what happened in a county nearby. Two sheriff's deputies died from the virus.

WALTON: That kind of hit close to home. And you think about your own mortality. You think about your family. And we pretty much push past that fear, and we go to work. We can't allow fear to grip us to the point where we're not going to be productive, we're not going to move on with life. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.