Scientist Says Immigrant Detention Facilities could be COVID-19 Hotbeds

Barbara Schwarz
April 04, 2020 - 11:10 am

DALLAS (KRLD) - There are more than two dozen Immigration and Custom Enforcement shelters in Texas.  ICE says there have not been any cases of coronavirus among the immigrant population, but a story in the Texas Standard says three ICE officers in the Houston area have tested positive.  

Brown University epidemiologist Dr. Jody Rich says any "congregant facility, whether it's a nursing home, whether it's an aircraft carrier, whether it's a cruise ship, whether it's a prison or a detention facility, is constructed in a way to facilitate rapid transmission of this virus. And you can't get around that.  Anybody who is locked up should be released in order to prevent them from getting infected all at once." 

He says this advice may not apply to criminals in jails and prisons who are a threat to public safety. 
 
But he says people in detention facilities are less likely to be a threat if they are released.  "Many of them are there for political reasons.  If released they would have a place to go and not get infected all at once.  If a facility gets infected all at once, 20 percent of those people would need to be hospitalized.  They will need to be transferred out of those facilities or they will die."

He says local hospitals would be overwhelmed with COVID 19 patients, much like we're seeing in New York.

He says the only tools we have are social distancing and frequent hand washing, and those are nearly impossible in detention facilities.

"If we could slow it and let a few people in these facilities get infected one at a time, no problem.  But by creating these large facilities, we have created a public storm. Here is a place the virus can go to town and infect a whole lot of people all at once.  That's a public safety nightmare.