Farmville ICE Detention Center needs to give detainees more space to reduce COVID-19 risk, CDC report says


FARMVILLE, Va. (WRIC) — The immigration detention center in Farmville struggled to mitigate a widespread COVID-19 outbreak that infected more than 300 detainees from June to early July due to the facility’s housing design and testing delays, according to an August report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The nation’s top public health agency sent a 10-person team, made up of clinicians, labortorians and epidemiologists, to the facility on Aug. 10 after Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and Virginia’s two U.S. senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, sent separate letters to President Donald Trump requesting that the CDC intervene and assist with the outbreak immediately.

In its report, the CDC concluded the facility’s limited number of rooms prevented it from properly quarantining detainees and that delays and issues with testing samples affected its ability “to implement appropriate medical isolation and timely quarantine cohorting.”

8News Investigation: Nearly 90 percent of ICE detainees in Farmville tested positive for COVID-19 after transfers from Florida, Arizona

“The COVID-19 outbreak in the FDC was difficult to manage and mitigate due to the housing design and limited number of rooms to medically isolate or quarantine persons who were sick or were waiting for test results to return,” the CDC report states. “The initial focus of testing symptomatic persons, long delays in receiving testing results, and issues that prevented samples from being processed by the laboratory limited the FDC’s ability to implement appropriate medical isolation and timely quarantine cohorting.”

Before the CDC team arrived, a 72-year-old Canadian man who was in custody at the facility died after spending nearly a month in the hospital with the virus. The man, James T. Hill, was scheduled to be deported back to Canada when he reported shortness of breath. Hill was admitted to the hospital on July 10 and then tested positive for the novel coronavirus the next day.

At this time, Farmville has no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus.

“ICE and ICA Farmville are carefully reviewing the recommendations in the CDC’s report. ICE prioritizes the health and safety of detainees in its custody, and throughout the COVID-19 global pandemic, ICE has implemented CDC recommendations for managing and mitigating the spread of the virus,” an ICE spokesperson said in a statement Thursday. “Currently, ICA Farmville has further reduced the population in each dorm to allow for greater spacing of detainees during the day and for additional spacing between occupied beds.”

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