(Natural News) The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) confirmed reports that dozens of unaccompanied minors who illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border and were transported to a shelter at the San Diego Convention Center have tested positive for the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19).
According to the HHS, 82 of the more than 700 migrant minors in the shelter tested positive but none required hospitalization.
HHS officials said those who tested positive were brought to San Diego on a separate plane and their intake was separate from the others. They were also kept in separate areas on a separate floor.
Those who tested negative are tested for COVID-19 every three days. All migrant minors are tested before boarding transportation to the shelter.
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria told the media over the weekend that the shelter is only taking unaccompanied girls aged 13 to 17.
“Today we are showing the world that San Diego is a welcoming city. These are children. This is the right thing to do,” Gloria said as he led the opening of the facility on Saturday, March 27.
Gloria added the shelter will provide a full range of services.
“I want to be clear, this is not just cots, but [what] we are doing here is intensive case management, medical care, behavioral health care, educational services, recreational services, nutritious meals, legal services, religious services, and probably above anything, to be a safe place,” he said.
The San Diego shelter, which is under contract until mid-July, will operate as a processing facility and shelter for the children until social workers can connect them with relatives or sponsors. Officials said South Bay Community Services in San Diego is helping the minors contact relatives in the country or helping them find sponsors.
The convention center is one of at least eight facilities that have been converted into shelters or created to house the influx of unaccompanied immigrant children entering the U.S. in recent months.
Over 17,000 unaccompanied migrant minors under government care
According to a March 30 report, there are 17,641 unaccompanied migrant minors in government care – 5,606 are in Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) custody and 12,035 are in the care of the HHS.
From March 1 to March 30, there were a total of 647 COVID-19 cases in 40 out of 50 Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) Office of Refugee Resettlement operations. (Related: Unloading disease-carrying immigrants in large U.S. cities a ‘perfect storm’ for pandemic disease outbreak.)
At the facility for migrant children in Carrizo Springs, Texas, around 11 percent of kids have tested positive for COVID-19, a source familiar with the matter told ABC News Wednesday, March 31. There are 766 unaccompanied migrant minors stationed at the site.
The source said the site’s contractor is a nonprofit that provided emergency coronavirus response resources to Texas this year and requested that COVID-19 positive teens be sent to the facility.
Late Tuesday, March 30, 500 unaccompanied minors were brought to Fort Bliss, Texas, which houses boys between 13 and 17. The facility can house as many as 5,000 children. It’s not yet clear how many children there have tested positive for COVID-19.
Also on Tuesday, reporters were given a first look inside a CBP-run facility, which revealed severe overcrowding. A temporary tent facility in Donna, Texas, which is meant to hold 250 migrants, had more than 4,100 crammed inside.
According to the CBP, 3,400 of those were unaccompanied minors and more than 2,000 had been held beyond the legal limit of 72 hours.
“It’s not surprising then, that girls who are legally not supposed to be held for more than 72 hours and are being held for a much longer period of time at those facilities are contracting the disease,” Pedro Ríos, the director of the U.S.-Mexico Border Program with the American Friends Service Committee, which aids migrants in San Diego, told ABC News.
He described those facilities as “horrendous or ill-equipped to handle any type of medical emergency or any situation where there could be a spread of communicable disease.”
“They don’t have the medical supplies there to handle any type of outbreak or treat anyone with any serious illness. That’s what we’ve seen children die in the past,” Ríos said.
During the time of former President Donald Trump, his administration invoked a section of the public health code known as “Title 42” to give immigration authorities the green light to remove unaccompanied migrant children. CBP said it was necessary to reduce overcrowding at its facilities.
But under President Joe Biden, the government is allowing teens and children to stay in the country. The change, combined with an unprecedented increase in the number of kids found crossing the border, has strained government resources and sent the Biden administration scrambling to find more shelter space.
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