USA TODAY US Edition

COVID-19 out­break jolts large ICE cen­ter

- Rebecca Plevin Health · Coronavirus (COVID-19) · Immigration · Infectious Diseases · Health Conditions · Society · California · San Bernardino County · San Bernardino · United States of America · U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement · Mexico · Palm Springs, FL · American Civil Liberties Union · Southern California · Adelanto, CA · Valdez, AK · GEO Group · Adelanto · The Desert Sun

Hun­dreds of de­tainees and staff at a fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion de­ten­tion cen­ter in Cal­i­for­nia are be­ing tested for COVID-19 amid an out­break of the highly con­ta­gious virus.

Sat­u­ra­tion test­ing of de­tainees at the 1,940-bed Ade­lanto ICE Pro­cess­ing Cen­ter in San Bernardino County was ex­pected to be com­pleted by Sun­day, ac­cord­ing to Gabriel Valdez, as­sis­tant field of­fice di­rec­tor of en­force­ment and re­moval op­er­a­tions for U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment. The fa­cil­ity, owned and op­er­ated by pri­vate prison com­pany The GEO Group, is one of the largest im­mi­gra­tion de­ten­tion cen­ters in the coun­try.

As of Sun­day, 53 of 394 peo­ple had tested pos­i­tive for COVID-19, Valdez said in court fil­ings. ICE pre­vi­ously des­ig­nated 20 of those 53 peo­ple as be­ing at greater risk of com­pli­ca­tions from COVID-19 due to their age and pre­ex­ist­ing med­i­cal con­di­tions.

Nine of the 53 peo­ple who tested pos­i­tive have been hos­pi­tal­ized since Sept. 10, Valdez said. Three have since been re­leased from the hos­pi­tal and are in med­i­cal iso­la­tion rooms, he said.

Ad­di­tion­ally, 34 peo­ple tested neg­a­tive and 307 were await­ing re­sults, Valdez said. Each test kit is sent to an off-site lab­o­ra­tory, he said, and of­fi­cials are re­ceiv­ing re­sults in three to five days.

“As test­ing re­sults come in and the fa­cil­ity learns the full ex­tent of the out­break, mit­i­ga­tion plans are still tak­ing shape, and will be mod­i­fied as the ex­tent and the lo­ca­tion of the out­break is de­fined,” Valdez said.

ICE, on its web­site Tues­day, in­creased the total num­ber of cases among Ade­lanto de­tainees to 58.

At least two peo­ple de­tained at the fa­cil­ity de­scribed the sit­u­a­tion as “out of con­trol.”

“Ev­ery­one is test­ing pos­i­tive,” Jose Tapete, a de­tainee from Mex­ico who got a pos­i­tive re­sult on Fri­day, told The Desert Sun of Palm Springs, part of the USA TO­DAY Net­work.

“I’m afraid of dy­ing here,” Jose Ri­cardo Viveros Ro­driguez, 72, said in Span­ish. He said Satur­day that he was on a hunger strike to raise aware­ness of the risk he faces at the fa­cil­ity. He has di­a­betes and high blood pres­sure, which in­crease his risk of be­com­ing se­ri­ously ill from the virus.

ICE spokesper­son Alexx Pons said Mon­day that no de­tainees are on strike at the fa­cil­ity.

One of the dor­mi­to­ries, known as West 5, has been

“As test­ing re­sults come in and the fa­cil­ity learns the full ex­tent of the out­break, mit­i­ga­tion plans are still tak­ing shape, and will be mod­i­fied as the ex­tent and the lo­ca­tion of the out­break is de­fined.”

Gabriel Valdez, as­sis­tant field of­fice di­rec­tor of en­force­ment and re­moval op­er­a­tions for Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment

con­verted to a “quar­an­tine sta­tus,” Valdez said. Peo­ple in the dorm must re­main in their rooms, which house no more than two peo­ple. They can­not visit the din­ing hall, so fa­cil­ity staff bring meals to them. They are al­lowed to use show­ers and tele­phones.

Peo­ple in the West dorm who are wait­ing for test re­sults are treated as “pre­sump­tively pos­i­tive” for the virus, Valdez said. They await re­sults in rooms that typ­i­cally house two de­tainees, he said.

Jes­sica Bansal, a se­nior staff at­tor­ney for the ACLU of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia who is rep­re­sent­ing Ade­lanto de­tainees in a class ac­tion law­suit, crit­i­cized ICE’s prac­tice of hold­ing two peo­ple await­ing re­sults in a sin­gle cell for mul­ti­ple days.

If one has the virus, she said, it’s pos­si­ble he will pass it on to the other dur­ing that pe­riod of time. “Lit­er­ally, the re­sults are mean­ing­less,” she said. Re­fer­ring to the out­break, Bansal said, “It’s just heart­break­ing, be­cause it was to­tally pre­ventable.”

Sat­u­ra­tion test­ing of GEO and con­tract med­i­cal staff was ex­pected to be com­pleted by Tues­day, Valdez said.

As of Sun­day morn­ing, 238 of ap­prox­i­mately 600 staff mem­bers had been tested for COVID-19, he said. Of those, eight had tested pos­i­tive, he said. Those em­ploy­ees have been in­structed to quar­an­tine at home, and will not be al­lowed to re­turn to the fa­cil­ity for at least 14 days, he said. They will need to test neg­a­tive for the virus be­fore re­turn­ing.

Ex­perts agree that the out­break “was most likely caused by a staff mem­ber who re­ported to work at Ade­lanto in­fected with Covid-19,” U.S. District Judge Terry Hat­ter Jr. wrote in an or­der is­sued Tues­day morn­ing. It orig­i­nated in the West 5D dorm, with de­tainees ini­tially be­ing in­fected be­tween Sept. 5 and Sept. 10, Valdez said.

 ?? JAY CALDERON/USA TO­DAY NET­WORK ?? A de­tainee stares out of his cell in the seg­re­ga­tion unit at the U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment’s Ade­lanto pro­cess­ing Cen­ter in Ade­lanto, Calif, on Dec. 3, 2019.
JAY CALDERON/USA TO­DAY NET­WORK A de­tainee stares out of his cell in the seg­re­ga­tion unit at the U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment’s Ade­lanto pro­cess­ing Cen­ter in Ade­lanto, Calif, on Dec. 3, 2019.

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