A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Aurora, Colorado, experienced its largest COVID-19 outbreak to date after nearly 100 migrants were moved to the detention center last month and tested positive for the coronavirus.
Smock said that most of the migrants had come from a Customs and Border Protection facility where coronavirus testing had been compromised because of the flood of people crossing the border.
Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman called the incident “incredibly irresponsible.”
“Under no circumstances should COVID-positive detainees be brought to the Aurora ICE facility,” the Republican mayor said.
“They need to be tested at the border and if they test positive for COVID they need to be quarantined, according to CDC guidelines, before they are allowed to be transferred.”
Smock couldn’t confirm if the detainees had been tested before they were moved, but she said they were tested and isolated when they got to Aurora.
“Medical center staff took the necessary steps to quickly isolate the exposed detainees, provide proper medical care and prevent further spread of infection within the facility to detainees already in residence,” she said.
The Aurora ICE facility has seen several small outbreaks since March 2020.
“The primary goal of the disease control measures implemented at the facility is to mitigate the impact of the new positive detainees admitted to the facility and reduce the risk of further transmission,” a medical epidemiologist at the Tri-County Health Department, Dr. Bernadette Albanese, said.
Border Patrol did not test the migrants for COVID-19 except for when they showed obvious symptoms, due to a lack of time and space for testing, according to the government.
Coronavirus testing is postponed until migrants are released into local communities, cities and counties after the migrants spend days in close spaces with other strangers.
“People who were on the bus or in the cell with people who tested positive are going to test positive,” Mark Lane, who runs the San Diego Minority Humanitarian Foundation, said.
“Uber drivers, taxi drivers and people like us, people who are not fully vaccinated, are getting exposed. Today I took two guys who were released and put them in a T.S.A. line with 500 people on it.”
Interim Border Patrol chief for the Tucson Sector John Modlin said it takes 90 minutes to three hours to process each migrant, and testing would add an additional 20 minutes.
“That’s 20 minutes times a thousand people,” Modlin said.
“The Border Patrol does not want to get in the business of testing or inoculating people.”
Democratic Rep. Jason Crow of Colorado said that if the Biden administration does not have the resources, it needs to stop transferring people further into the country.
“The system doesn’t have the resources at this point to test folks and to treat them — so let’s stop transferring people between facilities,” he told The Denver Post.
Coffman added that bringing in infected detainees endangers Aurora’s community and “puts the lives of all of the detainees in this facility unnecessarily at risk.”
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