The situation has gotten so bad that the city of Laredo, Texas, is refusing to take in any more migrants who are being bused in from the border after confirming that 40 percent of them have tested positive for coronavirus.
Laredo Health Authority Dr. Victor Trevino confirmed these numbers, which represent the highest known positivity rate right now along the U.S. border with Mexico. Last week, the positivity rate for migrants released from custody in McAllen, Texas, was 15 percent.
Since the spring, Border Patrol officials in the Rio Grande Valley have been transporting thousands of migrant families to Laredo due to a lack of shelter space. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) does not routinely test migrants for COVID-19 prior to releasing them, which means the responsibility falls on localities and charities, who can then seek federal reimbursement. When migrants are tested, those who are positive must be quarantined, which can be very expensive and requires facilities that most areas simply don’t have at the moment.
The COVID-19 positivity rate climbed from 4 percent in April to 40 percent in August. Laredo officials, who are concerned about the strain on hospital resources, have contracted private bus companies to bring the migrants being bused in from McAllen to bigger cities throughout the state, which allows them to bypass any testing requirements and forward them to bigger cities with presumably greater resources.
Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz told Border Report that his city already has a waiting list of hospital beds and rising coronavirus cases, which means that bringing these people into his city will pit migrants against residents waiting for hospital beds.
McAllen Mayor Javier Villalobos told CBS News that at first, he did not think the increase in COVID-19 in their community was related to the immigrants because they had been isolated, but that is no longer the case as the city cannot force any migrant families to quarantine.
“Now I think there's an issue, because now they're going throughout. Positive or non-positive, they get picked up, and they're going out. And we have no authority to stop it," he said.
Incoming Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said that there is already a limited capacity in terms of healthcare, with shortages of doctors and hospital beds, and they are worried about compounding the issues local communities are facing in this regard. With 5,000 to 6,000 people coming across the border per day, it is logical to expect some of them to be sick, he added.
A document prepared for a briefing with President Joe Biden obtained by NBC News revealed that positivity rates among all demographics of migrants have been rising in the last two to three weeks and that border processing facilities need more medical staffing; at one Rio Grande Valley facility, three EMTs oversaw 3,000 migrants.
In the document, the increase in COVID-19 among undocumented immigrants was attributed to the Delta variant’s high transmissibility as well as long stays by migrants in very crowded CBP facilities. As the U.S. struggles to keep up with rising COVID-19 cases, the last thing the country needs is to allow thousands of non-citizens to flood the borders and add to the strain on the healthcare system.
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