Since February, the COVID-19 positivity rate among those held by ICE has doubled. Today, according to our tracking of the outbreaks, the positivity rate among people in ICE detention is more than 50 times the positivity rate of the U.S. population at large.by Theresa Cheng, MD, JD
The following is an excerpt of an article in Medscape.
In recent months, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has reported higher-than-ever rates of COVID-19 among people in its custody. Since February, the COVID-19 positivity rate among those held by ICE has doubled. Today, according to our tracking of the outbreaks, the positivity rate among people in ICE detention is more than 50 times the positivity rate of the U.S. population at large.
What is underlying this surge?
For one, ICE is finally testing its detained population more widely, so it's possible that what appears to the outside as a surge is actually just a clearer picture of what's been happening all along. Since the start of the pandemic, the agency has been severely under-testing, in some cases deliberately, and thus obscuring the true extent of COVID-19 spread among both detained people and staff. In May 2020, the agency was only testing roughly one in five detained individuals; a year later, testing has improved fourfold.
But it's likely that the apparent surge in COVID-19 infections is driven at least in part by skyrocketing numbers of people being held in ICE detention. Even while the positivity rate has continued to grow, the agency is returning to pre-pandemic detention levels, nearly doubling the number of people in its custody to over 27,000 in just a few months. In doing so, ICE has dramatically increased population density inside its facilities, with the primary source of the increase being growing transfersfrom Border Patrol custody. On top of this, more transmissible variants may be contributing to the rapid spread. (Continued...)