ICE detainee has COVID-19, quarantined in Bergen County jail
Bergen County Jail is on lockdown mode after a man in immigration custody there tested positive for COVID-19. Previously, a Bergen County corrections officer tested positive and remains on quarantine at home.
The 31-year-old Mexican national was sent Monday for evaluation at Hackensack-Meridian Health University Medical Center after displaying symptoms. A rapid response test came back positive, according to ICE officials.
The man has since returned to Bergen County Jail, where he is receiving medical care under quarantine.
As of Tuesday, Bergen County jail was housing about 250 ICE detainees and about 300 county inmates, though the jail was moving forward with the temporary release of low-level offenders serving less than a year, per a consent order signed Sunday by the chief justice of the state Supreme Court.
Bergen County officials said they are screening inmates before they are processed, checking temperatures and asking them the following questions:
— Do you have a place to go?
— Do you have photo ID?
— Are you COVID-19 positive or displaying any symptoms related to COVID-19?
— Do you want to leave?
At Hudson County jail, which also houses some ICE detainees, two inmates tested positive for COVID-19, officials said March 22. The entire jail is on COVID-19 protocol for 14 days — which includes modified lock-down, daily temperature-taking of staff, inmates and detainees, sanitizing the entire complex, and case tracing.
Hudson County officials previously said detainees were “provided with computer tablets in their cells to stay in contact with loved ones, and will have their individual accounts funded to allow them to buy items” from the commissary.
The Marshall Project reported on March 19 that a medical staff member tested positive for COVID-19 at the ICE detention center in Elizabeth. That employee self-quarantined after showing symptoms but does typically interact with detainees needing treatment, the report said.
Over the past week or so, public defenders working with New York Immigrant Family Unity Project have shared open letters about ongoing hunger strikes among detainees at both Bergen and Hudson jails, but ICE officials have not confirmed any such movements.
A separate open letter, signed by more than 3,000 medical professionals and medical students across the country and shared by New York Lawyers for the Public interest, urged ICE to release individuals and families from detention while their legal cases are being processed.
Lockdown protocol at Bergen County Jail includes temporarily suspending further intake of ICE detainees, as well as limiting movements of inmates and detainees, opening a new COVID-19 isolation unit and continuing to allow attorney non-contact visits with clients.
Bergen County jail officials said disinfectant spray, a bleach-based solution to sanitize floors and surface space, hand sanitizer, and soap will continue to be made available in "every housing unit at the jail."
The Bergen County Jail has a fully operational medical unit within the facility, with a full-time doctor and nursing staff.
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