Undocumented Migrants Go Untested for COVID-19 at Border Facilities

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As the United States vaccinates larger numbers of people and several states begin to reopen after seeing lower infection rates, the failure of U.S. authorities to test adult migrants for the coronavirus in jam-packed border processing centers is creating a potential for new transmissions, public health officials and shelter operators warn, even among migrants who may have arrived healthy, reports the New York Times. Although more than 170,000 migrants crossed the border in March, the Border Patrol is conducting no testing for the coronavirus during the several days that the newly arrived migrants are in U.S. custody except in cases where migrants show obvious symptoms.

The government says it has insufficient time and space to test migrants upon their arrival. While migrants get a basic health screening, testing is being postponed until their release to local community groups, cities and counties, usually after the new arrivals have spent days confined in tight spaces with scores of strangers. There have been no instances of mass spread at U.S. border facilities, and overall numbers of cases are relatively low, according to the Department of Homeland Security. About 5 percent of all single adults and families tested after their release since March showed a positive result, according to the agency, while among the thousands of unaccompanied minors now in custody, the rate has been about 12 percent. Local officials and shelter operators said they feared that the actual number of infections could be much higher.

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