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Outbreak concerns at downtown detention facility

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Posted at 6:25 PM, Nov 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-02 21:25:19-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Serious concerns being raised about a COVID-19 outbreak at a federal detention center in downtown San Diego this week after dozens of detainees and employees tested positive.

According to the Federal Defenders of San Diego there are 86 detainees currently COVID-19 positive at the Western Region Detention Facility. The Federal Defenders say those numbers came from the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) later Monday afternoon.

Earlier Monday a spokesperson for the Marshals told ABC 10News, “As of Nov. 2, we have received reports of 74 USMS prisoners being held at the Western Region Detention Facility having tested positive for COVID-19 at any point during the pandemic. Of these, 22 have since recovered. The USMS prisoner population at the facility is 520.”

The spokesperson did say data on prisoner health comes to USMS through established reporting mechanisms that may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction; the data is not real-time and may not reflect the most current information.

It’s not just inmates testing positive.

According to the Geo Group, the company that runs the facility, 64 GEO employees at the Western Region Detention Facility have tested positive for COVID-19.

A spokesperson for GEO said 54 employees who previously tested positive have fully recovered and returned to work.

Nine of the employees who tested positive are currently at home on self-quarantine, and one employee is receiving treatment at a local hospital.

In a statement a spokesperson wrote in part, “While the COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges, from the very beginning we have taken extensive measures to ensure the health and safety of those in our care and our employees, who are on the front lines making daily sacrifices at the facility.”

In October, Team 10 reported on claims that some people who are arrested, accused of federal crimes, and taken to the GEO facility are not getting to court within the required timeframe.

At the time, Attorney Ryan Stitt said outbreaks at detention facilities endanger the broader community.

"The guards that are present, the healthcare professionals that go to the jail and then our hospitals generally that need to treat the inmates once they become ill are all impacted by the rising COVID-19 numbers in custody," Stitt said.