More Than 40 Employees At Ga. Immigration Detention Center Test Positive For COVID-19

While the number of employee cases of COVID-19 grew at the Stewart Detention Center, immigrant-rights advocates worry some detainee cases may be going undetected.

David Goldman / Associated Press

A southwest Georgia immigration detention center has seen a surge in cases of employees with COVID-19.

The Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin is one of the largest Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities. It’s run by a private contractor, CoreCivic.

Forty-two CoreCivic employees now have tested positive for the coronavirus. That’s nearly double the number of employee cases CoreCivic disclosed last week and about 10% of its total workforce at Stewart.

ICE has also confirmed one case of the virus among its employees there.

Meanwhile, immigrant-rights advocates worry some detainee cases may be going undetected. So far, ICE has reported nine, which has not increased since last week.

With employee cases rising, Anton Flores-Maisonet of Georgia Detention Watch said it’s hard not to be skeptical of that number.

“It seems implausible that out of a potential 1,900 immigrants that are currently confined at the Stewart Detention Center that only nine of them would be showing positive test results,” he said.

Flores-Maisonet said there’s no way for detainees to social distance within the facility. He suspects detainees don’t have the same access to tests as employees.

On its website, ICE said it follows Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for testing but doesn’t provide further detail. As of last week, it had tested about 400 detainees nationwide.

CoreCivic said if employees experience symptoms or have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus, the company encourages them to get medical care and testing.