ICE detainee at York County Prison tests positive for COVID‐19

Ron Musselman
York Dispatch

Days after a federal judge ordered the release of three ICE detainees at York County Prison because they were particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus, officials at the facility said they were informed a federal detainee has tested positive for COVID‐19.

The detainee has been at the facility since Jan. 22 and is now isolated in negative‐air housing. 

“Negative air systems or negative pressure rooms are used as isolation techniques to keep air inside the room from leaving the space. The detainee will remain on that status with medical care until cleared by the onsite medical provider,” according to a prison news release Saturday. 

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials notified the prison on Friday, according to the release. The detainee is in stable condition and is not hospitalized.

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The housing unit where the individual was assigned has been quarantined with medical monitoring until cleared by the medical provider, officials said.

Staff and other detainees who were in contact with the infected individual have been notified or are in the process of being notified of the positive test result. Additionally, the Pennsylvania Department of Health was notified.

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During this time, to the extent practicable, detainees will have access to services and programs that are offered, according to the news release.

The news came days after U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III agreed Tuesday with the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union that keeping some ICE detainees locked up in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions puts them at higher risk of contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The 10 plaintiffs included four detainees at York County Prison. 

Several organizations, including Shut Down Berks Coalition, Juntos, MILPA, and CASA, an immigrant-advocacy organization, stage a demonstration for the release of immigrant detainees at York County Prison, in Springettsbury Township, Saturday, April 4,  2020. The organizations staged an event earlier in the day at the home of Gov. Tom Wolf demanding the release of immigrant families from Berks County Detention Center, as well as York County, in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The ACLU initially had sought the release of 13 such detainees, but three had already been released by federal authorities, including one at York County Prison, an ACLU spokesman said.

On Friday, the ACLU of Pennsylvania filed a new lawsuit in federal court asking that 22 additional ICE detainees, including 13 at York County Prison, be released because of COVID-19 risk.

A spokesman issued a statement that ICE doesn't comment on pending litigation.

In the original case, Jones issued a temporary restraining order and had given York County Prison Warden Clair Doll and others until noon Tuesday, April 7, to show why the temporary order should not be made more permanent during the ongoing pandemic, according to federal court records.

— Ron Musselman can be reached at rmusselman@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @ronmusselman8.