Despite efforts by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to prevent spread of COVID-19 in detention facilities, detainees are still infected at a much higher rate than the rest of the U.S., reports USA Today. Researchers analyzed data from 92 of the 135 ICE detention centers and found the case rate among detainees was on average more than 13 times the rate of the U.S. population each month from April to August, said a report last month in JAMA Open Network. Case rates surpassed those in U.S. federal and state prisons, which were 5.5 times higher than in the general population from March 31 to June 6, according to a July research letter in JAMA.
COVID-19 spread in ICE detention facilities may be worse. Lack of data transparency, minimal testing and anecdotal reports of inconsistent compliance with health guidelines suggest case numbers could be much higher. “We have an incomplete picture of what’s happening with testing,” said study author and Harvard Medical School student Dr. Parsa Erfani. “(But) it’s hard to stand by and just look the other way.” ICE said it as taken steps to safeguard detainees, staff and contractors, including reducing the number of detainees in custody, suspending social visitation and incorporating social distancing practices. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends maintaining detention capacity at each facility at or below 75 percent. Study authors said ICE reduced its population from February to August by 45 percent to try to decrease COVID-19 spread.