A vehicle drives into the Otay Mesa detention center for undocumented immigrants in San Diego, California, June 9, 2017. [Photo: AP]
A 57-year-old Salvadoran man in immigration custody died Wednesday from complications related to the novel coronavirus, US health authorities said. He is the first reported death from the virus among about 30,000 people in immigration custody.
Carlos Ernesto Escobar had been held at the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego, California and hospitalized since late April, San Diego County Health & Human Services Agency spokesman Craig Sturak told the Associated Press (AP).
Escobar was identified by a family representative as a diabetic who left El Salvador with his mother and sisters in 1980 and lived in the Los Angeles area. Alex Guzman of the Otay Mesa Detention Resistance advocacy group said he had been detained at the San Diego facility since January.
Escobar's sisters told The San Diego Union-Tribune that he received a blood transfusion Tuesday but his body had already been too weakened by the virus.
"My brother was a one-of-a-kind," Maribel Escobar told the newspaper.
The Otay Mesa facility has been a hotbed for the spread of COVID-19, with nearly one of five detainees who have tested positive nationwide. ICE has reported 132 of Immigration and Customs Enforcement's 705 positive cases were at the San Diego facility. Additionally, 10 of 39 ICE detention employees who have tested positive are at Otay Mesa, as of April 25.
Two guards at an ICE jail in the state of Louisiana died from COVID-19 last week.
Relatives of both detention guards, Carl Lenard, 62, and Stanton Johnson, 51, told the AP the Richwood Correctional Center in Monroe, Louisiana, had at one point prevented them from wearing masks as the virus spread through the facility.
LaSalle Corrections, the company that operates Richwood, told the AP that protective equipment "is provided as necessary and employees can bring and wear masks."
On Friday, a group of about 10 ICE detainees in a Dartmouth, Massachusetts immigration detention center reportedly became combatant, trashing a section of the facility and causing more than 25,000 US dollars in damages after first reporting they had COVID-19 symptoms and then refusing to get tested.
The detainees feared contracting the virus through cross-contamination in the medical unit where officers were wanting to transfer them to, according to Lawyers for Civil Rights in Boston which filed a lawsuit on behalf of the detainees.
The Bristol County Sheriff's Office has reported a total of 12 COVID-19 infections including one correctional inmate.
ICE has released at least 192 at-risk detainees as of April 24 after orders from a federal judge in the state of California forced the agency to do so in order to avoid severe illness or death if immigrants contract COVID-19.
There are 29,675 immigrants in ICE custody as of April 25, of which 1,460 have been tested for COVID-19 resulting in 705 positive infections.