Bronzeville shelter for immigrant youth has, what appears to be, country's largest number of coronavirus cases in a shelter for unaccompanied minors

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Dozens of children are sick and more, may yet be diagnosed.

The outbreak was first confirmed over the weekend. A shelter for immigrant youth located at an undisclosed location in Bronzeville has, what appears to be, the country's largest number of COVID-19 cases in a shelter for unaccompanied minors.

There have been 37 cases so far, with the number expected to increase.

"At the end of the day they are group settings. When you have anybody who is living in a group setting right now it is nearly impossible to practice any kind of social distancing," said Ashley Hueber with the National Immigrant Justice Center.

The shelter is run by the Heartland Alliance.

While their main offices are in the Loop, Heartland Alliance currently houses 69 immigrant children in three shelters across the city.

Heartland officials they are now testing all of them, even those who are asymptomatic. And have isolated those who are showing signs of illness.

"The prognosis for all of the children in our care is very good, and we are continuing to focus on our participants' health and well-being," a Heartland spokesperson said in a statement Tuesday.

About 2,800 unaccompanied minors are being held in a shelter system nationwide. Most, were picked up at the U.S. Mexico border, taken into custody by Office of Refugee Resettlement which is ultimately responsible for their care and expediting their release, until their cases come up before a judge.

"The reality for most of these children is that there is a way for them to be released to relatives here in the U.S. and that's what the government should be doing right away," said Mony Ruiz-Velasco with the West Suburban Action Project.

Heartland Alliance said Tuesday that they are doing what they can to safely reunite children with their families.

The procedures put into place to do that however are set by the federal government, many of those are on hold right now.
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