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A Medical Worker At An ICE Detention Facility For Immigrants Has Tested Positive For The Coronavirus

The case appears to be the first of an ICE official contracting COVID-19 within a detention facility housing immigrants in the US.

Posted on March 19, 2020, at 8:17 p.m. ET

Mel Evans / AP

A row of beds at the Elizabeth Detention Center.

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A medical worker at a private ICE detention center for immigrant detainees in New Jersey has tested positive for the coronavirus.

According to a notification the agency made to congressional officials late Thursday, the individual is an administrative staff member of ICE’s Health Service Corps at the Elizabeth Detention Center in New Jersey. The staff member had been self-quarantining and has been receiving treatment.

The case appears to be the first of an ICE official contracting COVID-19 within a detention facility housing immigrants in the US. There are no other staff members or ICE detainees exhibiting symptoms, according to the notice.

The Marshall Project first reported the positive test.

Though the virus originated in China, it has become a pandemic. The virus has been spreading within US communities for weeks, prompting cancellations of large conferences, concerts, and other events; widespread closures of schools; and quarantines of entire communities. States and cities across the country have also ordered restaurants and bars to close.

The American Civil Liberties Union asked a federal court on Monday to force officials to release a group of immigrants who have a lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, epilepsy, or kidney disease to protect them from the potential spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in a Seattle-area detention facility.

The filing in US District Court for the Western District of Washington identified nine immigrants in custody at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, including a 48-year-old Jamaican woman with cholangitis, a progressive liver disease, who has been told she has only 10 to 12 years to live. The advocates said the woman was “critically vulnerable to COVID-19 because of her autoimmune disease and diabetes.”

The request was denied by a federal court judge Thursday.

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