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There's a COVID-19 Outbreak At ICE's Adelanto Detention Center

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Adelanto U.S. Immigration and Enforcement Processing Center. (Chris Carlson/AP)
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At least 38 immigrant detainees have tested positive for the coronavirus in an outbreak at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center, a privately-operated detention facility in San Bernardino County.

According to a court filing on Wednesday, a lawyer for the federal government said in an email that a total of 80 detainees were tested between two housing units after six people were reported positive in those units earlier this week.

Of the 80 detainees, 38 people had tested positive and the remaining test results are still pending, the attorney said.

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Six detainees have been hospitalized for COVID-19 treatment, according to another court filing Thursday, in a declaration by Gabriel Valdez, assistant field office director of ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations in Los Angeles.

A spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said Thursday that at least 80 detainees have been tested so far and others may be tested as a result of contract tracing. As of Thursday, 39 had tested positive for COVID-19.

"All have been quarantined and are receiving care. Consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, those who may have come in contact with these individuals have also been cohorted and are being monitored for symptoms," the ICE spokesperson, Alexx Pons, said in an emailed statement.

Prior to this outbreak, the detention center had a cumulative total of 14 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic. All of the 14 cases involved people who newly arrived at the detention center, the attorney said.

In April, the ACLU of Southern California sued ICE, asking for the release of detainees at the center because of concerns over the coronavirus and the lack of social distancing. That case is pending in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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There have been a number of COVID-19 outbreaks at other immigrant detention facilities across the country, including Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego, where more than 160 people tested positive for COVID-19 and 1 detainee died from the coronavirus.

In light of the recent outbreak, the ACLU of Southern California has filed a termporary restraining order, asking for immediate testing of all detainees at Adelanto and medical isolation of all people with confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Margaret Hellerstein, an attorney with Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project, said one of her clients, who's being held in one of the affected housing units, had symptoms for days before being tested.

"[He had] extreme tiredness, muscle aches, sore throat, chills, runny nose, headache and lack of appetite," she said.

Hellerstein said he was first told by a nurse to gargle with salt water because his symptoms were attribtued to the poor air quality (due to wildfire smoke), and then he was given over-the-counter cold medicine.

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"I want him to get better treatment," Hellerstein said.

UPDATES:

3:59: This article was updated to include information about how many detainees have been hospitalized.

2:55 p.m.: This article was updated with a comment from an ICE spokesperson.

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