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Buffalo Federal Detention Facility. news

COVID outbreak at immigration holding facility appears to have started with one detainee

By Howard B. Owens

A detainee who had been to an outside medical facility appears to have been the initial source of a COVID-19 outbreak at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia, according to a source familiar with operations of the center. 

So far, 24 inmates have tested positive for COVID but only the initial detainee is symptomatic.  

In the past, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have been cooperative in providing information about COVID outbreaks at its facilities but today, a spokesman declined to comment and referred The Batavian to the agency's website, which contains no other information than current statistics. 

According to a source, the one symptomatic patient is isolated from the rest of the detainee population, and the other 23 are in two pods that do not have direct contact with detainees in other pods. The source said the facility continues to follow strict guidelines on personal protective equipment and regular thorough cleaning with bleach.

In April, near the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the detention facility had more than 50 positive cases -- almost all were asymptomatic -- after detainees were transferred there from other facilities. After that initial outbreak, the facility went months without a positive case reported.

The source said officials suspect this outbreak started with a person who had been to an outside medical facility because there have been no recent arrests nor transfers into the facility.

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