The GEO Group, which contracts with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to run an immigration detention facility in Aurora, has isolated 10 detainees for possible exposure to coronavirus, journalist Carlos Moreno reported Friday, saying on Facebook he had confirmation from ICE.
ICE spokeswoman Alethea Smock confirmed to the Colorado Times Recorder that the 10 detainees are in isolation due to possible exposure, and none were known to be infected.
“The health, welfare and safety of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees is one of the agency’s highest priorities. Since the onset of reports of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), ICE epidemiologists have been tracking the outbreak, regularly updating infection prevention and control protocols, and issuing guidance to ICE Health Service Corps (IHSC) staff for the screening and management of potential exposure among detainees,” reads a statement by ICE, provided by Smock.
“ICE continues to incorporate CDC’s COVID-19 guidance, which is built upon the already established infectious disease monitoring and management protocols currently in use by the agency,” continues the statement. “In addition, ICE is actively working with state and local health partners to determine if any detainee requires additional testing or monitoring to combat the spread of the virus.”
ICE is following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on testing them for coronavirus infection. These guidelines call for testing once symptoms become evident.
The detention center, which houses 1,500 people, has faced serious criticism from both government and outside entities for its handling of the health care of detainees there.
In an investigative report last year, the ACLU documented that two detainees died at the facility due to medical neglect.
The report entitled “Cashing in on Cruelty,” recommended, among other things, that cities and counties ensure that detainees have access to legal representation, which they don’t have currently.
The facility has quarantined detainees for mumps and varicella, or chicken pox.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit Monday to force the release of a group of sick or elderly immigrants at a detention facility in Seattle, which has been hard hit by the coronavirus. In California, the ACLU called on ICE to release vulnerable detainees on bond immediately.
The ACLU of Colorado did not immediately return a call seeking comment about the situation at the ICE facility in Aurora.
Local immigration advocates expressed concern about the treatment of possible coronavirus exposure at the facility, and ICE told The Denver Post last week it would follow best practices issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention but did not provide details.
Correction: This post initially stated that Moreno was with Univision.
UPDATE 3/17/20: This post now includes a statement from ICE.