LOS ANGELES (AP) — A judge in California ordered immediate testing of all detainees and staff at an immigration detention center where COVID-19 was spreading for weeks while officials refused to test for the virus.
Federal District Court Judge Vince Chhabria ordered the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to conduct quick-result testing of everyone in the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Facility in Bakersfield, The Los Angeles Times reports.
At least 54 of the 104 detained people remaining at the facility are positive for the virus. Initial results from quick tests Saturday found 11 more positive cases, MacLean said.
Chhabria’s order also directed about 140 staff members at Mesa Verde to be tested during their next shift, and weekly thereafter.
The order followed results Friday showing nearly half of the detainees tested earlier in the week were positive for COVID-19.
Deputy Public Defender Emi MacLean of the San Francisco public defender’s office said the judge cited the “deliberate indifference” of ICE and GEO Group, the private company managing the facility.
The public defender’s office represents detainees at the facility in San Francisco Immigration Court.
The order followed a series of hearings in a class-action lawsuit filed in April that sought to ensure the facility was taking adequate measures to ensure the detainees’ safety. As the litigation proceeded, ICE tested only those who showed symptoms of possible infection and reported there were none, MacLean said.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.