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caption: A detainee stands in a cell in the segregation area of the Northwest ICE Processing Center on Wednesday, June 21, 2017, in Tacoma.
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A detainee stands in a cell in the segregation area of the Northwest ICE Processing Center on Wednesday, June 21, 2017, in Tacoma.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

3 staff test positive for Covid-19 at Tacoma’s immigrant detention center

After advocates sounded the alarm that another guard at the Northwest ICE Processing Center has tested positive for Covid-19, court records confirm the finding.

It’s the third case in about a month.

*** Update Tues. 10/27 ***

The acting managing nurse at the Northwest ICE Processing Center (formally the Northwest Detention Center) has tested positive for coronavirus, according to court records.

Documents filed Tuesday state, "The IHSC [ICE Health Services Corps] employee is not believed to have been infectious or to have potentially exposed others to Covid-19 when last at the NWIPC. "

The staff member was asymptomatic and found out she was positive after being tested for an outside medical procedure.

Detainees and staff will not be quarantined or tested.

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In a court declaration by Officer Drew Brostock filed last week, Brostock confirms that GEO Group, a private contractor that runs the detention center in Tacoma, notified U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) last week that a GEO employee had tested positive.

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128-1 Bostock Declaration.pdf

The officer was tested for Covid-19 on October 18. The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department then confirmed positive results on October 21.

ICE is currently required to notify the court within 24 hours if any individual -- staff or detainees -- test positive for Covid at the detention center. It did not respond to requests for more information citing that the private contractor GEO be reached instead.

In a statement GEO explained, “One of the employees who tested positive is currently at home on self-quarantine, with pay, while the other has fully recovered and returned to work after meeting the return-to-work guidelines for essential workers issued by the CDC.”

Court records state that, “Both ICE and GEO are currently in the process of contact tracing.”

So far, there are 16 confirmed cases of Covid-19 among detained undocumented immigrants. The population has decreased in an attempt to limit the likelihood of contagion and now holds around 500 individuals.

Matt Adams, an attorney with the Northwest Immigrant Rights Group said this second positive case is worrisome.

“It just reinforces that whether it's the private guards -- in this case a GEO employee or the ICE officers who also work there -- [they] are one of the greatest cause of concern for exposing the immigration detainees to Covid-19. Because they're coming and going on a daily basis.”

In records, ICE notes that GEO issued a memo this month requiring employees to wear a face mask when interacting with others and in all public areas inside the facility.

Adams says that for now ongoing litigation is their only option to get undocumented individuals released "on parole."

"We still have people locked up in the detention center not because they're serving a sentence, but instead under civil detention. Some of those individuals are highly vulnerable. If they in fact, contract Covid-19, their life is at risk."