Nearly Half The Staff At Eloy Detention Center Test Positive For Coronavirus

By Lauren Gilger
Published: Thursday, July 9, 2020 - 1:51pm

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Eloy facility
Mesa Police Department
Initial presentations from CoreCivic showed their Eloy facility.

Nearly half of the employees at Arizona’s Eloy Detention Center have tested positive for COVID-19, and one guard has died. That’s according to a report by NBC News.

The immigration detention center is operated by private prison contractor CoreCivic and, according to some like Maite Garcia, the situation with the guards is having a ripple effect on detainees as well.

Garcia is a senior staff attorney with the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project and has clients who are detained in Eloy. Most of them are asylum-seekers awaiting a decision on their cases.

According to NBC, since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, 242 detainees have tested positive in a facility designed to hold 1,500 people, and 127 of the 300 CoreCivic employees who run the Eloy Detention Center have tested positive as well. 

The Show spoke with Garcia more about what she’s hearing from her clients inside.

The Show also invited the Department of Homeland Security and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE), but each declined.

CoreCivic responded with a written statement, saying, “Mass testing of Eloy Detention Center staff was conducted” in the first week of July and “any claim of there being a staff shortage is patently false. The facility has been staffed appropriately throughout the pandemic.”

CoreCivic’s spokesman also said all medical attention at the facility is administered by ICE’s Health Service Corps, not the facility.

CoreCivic's full statement:

COVID-19 has created extraordinary challenges for every corrections and detention system in America – public and private. At the same time, the state of Arizona on the whole is experiencing significant growth in COVID-19 cases. We have worked closely together with our government partners and state health officials to respond to this unprecedented situation appropriately, thoroughly and with care for the well-being of those entrusted to us and our communities.

Mass testing of Eloy Detention Center (EDC) staff was conducted Wednesday, July 1, and Thursday, July 2, to help inform additional decisions and efforts to mitigate the spread of this virus. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have had 128 confirmed CoreCivic staff cases at EDC (this is a cumulative total). From this total, we have 54 employees that have recovered from the virus and have been medically cleared to return to work. Facility leadership continues to receive lab results as they become available for the approximately 315 CoreCivic employees that work at EDC. Most all of the staff cases that have tested positive through this mass testing effort were asymptomatic at the time of testing. This is consistent with what we have observed at our other facilities, as well as other correctional systems. I've included the following link for a story that highlights this fact.

It's important to note that we are fully cooperating with public health authorities and other oversight agencies to ensure that they have the information necessary to develop strategies for contact tracing, infection control and mitigation measures to protect the public at large and employees in the work environment.

Any claim of there being a staff shortage is patently false. The facility has been staffed appropriately throughout the pandemic. Part of our COVID-19 comprehensive planning includes contingencies to employ staff from other facilities from around the country with lower COVID-19 impacts to support facilities that may have higher COVID-19 impacts. This is an important contingency plan that can't necessarily be replicated in the public sector when their employee pools are consolidated in a single state. Since the onset of the pandemic, approximately 50 CoreCivic employees have accepted temporary work assignments at EDC. CoreCivic employees voluntarily accept these temporary work assignments and must meet the training and background requirements set forth by our government partners. All employees are subject to screening before entering the facility, as well as the CDC's recommended guidelines for using personal protective equipment (PPE).

Also, CoreCivic does not provide medical or mental healthcare services or staffing at the Eloy Detention Center. The federal government's ICE Health Service Corps (IHSC) is solely responsible for contracting, staffing and oversight of any medical and mental health services provided at Eloy. CoreCivic staff at Eloy do not make medical or mental health treatment determinations and are trained to refer all detainee health or medical concerns, whether routine or acute, to facility medical staff for evaluation, triage and treatment. IHSC and its contracted service providers make all medical and mental health related decisions, including the timing and nature of outside medical treatment for detainees.

Since CoreCivic is not the healthcare provider at this facility, we also do not have access to medical-specific information about detainees. Questions regarding medical or mental health services at Eloy including COVID testing, cohorting, and medical isolation should be directed to ICE Public Affairs at [email protected].

For more information beyond what we’ve provided in this statement, feel free to visit the dedicated COVID-19 section of our website: https://www.corecivic.com/covid-19-response. Our media statement can be found here.

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