Emails show ICE deliberately limited testing during COVID-19 outbreak at Bakersfield facility

Coronavirus
Hunger strikers at Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center in Bakersfield were captured by drone during a sit-in protest on April 10, 2020. (California Committee for Immigrant Liberation)

Hunger strikers at Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center in Bakersfield were captured by drone during a sit-in protest on April 10, 2020. (California Committee for Immigrant Liberation)

Last month, as the coronavirus spread through federal immigration detention centers around the country, officials at the Mesa Verde facility in Bakersfield rejected a suggestion to test all detainees there because it would be difficult to quarantine those who tested positive, the officials said.

In an email on July 6, Janese Mull, the acting field office director for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in San Francisco, said lawyers for ICE had advised that it was in the facility’s best interest to look into conducting COVID-19 testing for all detainees.

But Brooke Sanchez Othon, a clinical operations specialist at Wellpath, a private Nashville-based healthcare company that provides services to ICE detention facilities, pushed back against Mull’s direction. The proposal to test all detainees, Sanchez Othon wrote, already had been denied “due to the housing restrictions we face.”

“Testing all detainees will potentially cause the same housing issue we had last week but on a larger scale,” Sanchez Othon continued, referring to the problem of quarantining infected detainees. “Completing the testing is not the issue it is just what we will need to do with the results once they are received.”

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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