Detainees Under Infectious-Disease Quarantine at Immigration Detention Facility

The immigration detention facility in Aurora is run by private prison company GEO Group through a contract with ICE.
The immigration detention facility in Aurora is run by private prison company GEO Group through a contract with ICE. Kenzie Bruce
One hundred fifty-two detainees are currently under infectious-disease quarantines at the GEO Group-run immigration detention facility in Aurora. The quarantines were ordered after health officials identified one case of mumps and one case of chicken pox.

The facility, which is run by GEO through a contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has been grappling with infectious-disease quarantines throughout much of 2019. At one point in March, more than 350 detainees were under quarantine for possible exposure to either mumps or chicken pox or both. The most recent quarantines began in May.

Reports of the infectious-disease outbreaks led 6th District Congressman Jason Crow to start looking into health conditions at the facility earlier in the year. The Tri-County Health Department also stepped in, assisting the facility in providing a measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination for detainees and staff. Following the department's intervention, the initial wave of quarantines was lifted, ICE confirmed to Westword on May 20.

However, on May 22, medical staff diagnosed another detainee with mumps, and the fifty or so detainees who were potentially exposed were placed under quarantine, which is scheduled to end in mid-June. The chicken pox case was identified last week.

The most recent mumps case is unrelated to the previous cases that led to multiple quarantines, according to Bernadette Albanese, a medical epidemiologist for the Tri-County Health Department. The health issues at the Aurora facility are part of a larger trend at immigration detention facilities across the nation, many of which are grappling with mumps outbreaks.

Chicken pox quarantines last up to 21 days, whereas mumps quarantines can last up to 25 days.

Mumps can be hard to control because some of the detainees arriving at the Aurora facility have not been vaccinated for the disease. The face swelling associated with mumps appears after someone is already contagious, which makes the disease difficult to identify at the moment of infection.

The Aurora facility has also been plagued by allegations of medical neglect. Recently, an internal ICE review looking into the death of Kamyar Samimi, an ICE detainee at the facility, showed that medical staff mishandled Samimi's treatment in the days leading up to his death.

In May, Crow introduced a bill that would require immigration detention facilities like the one in Aurora to comply with site inspection requests from members of Congress within 48 hours.

Update: This story was updated around 7 p.m. on June 4 to reflect the latest number of detainees under quarantine.
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.