Of the 45 detainees in the Buffalo Federal Detention Center who have tested positive for COVID-19 so far, only three are symptomatic, according to a source familiar with the situation.
The source, who asked we not use his name because he's not an authorized spokesperson for ICE, said all 45 detainees who are positive were living in the same pod when three detainees -- two from New York City and one from the NYS prison system -- were transferred into the facility.
The facility staff, he said, suspected the new arrivals were positive for COVID-19.
Given the close proximity of living arrangements detainees are considered vulnerable; ICE was able to get all detainees in the affected pod tested.
A pod can hold as many as 72 detainees.
The original pod now has 29 people in it who tested positive, and 20 more are alone in another POD. There are four people included in the two pods whose tests were inconclusive so they're being kept in isolation for the 14-day quarantine period.
The spike in positives at the facility had more to do with the testing lab releasing a batch of results on the same day than a sudden outbreak of the disease.
Currently, there are 319 detainees in the facility. The peak capacity of the facility is 650 detainees.
Many members of the staff are not ICE employees but work for contractors. The source said only two staff members have tested positive and both are, last he heard, asymptomatic.
Only a limited number of new transfers are entering the facility.
According to the source, at the start of the novel coronavirus outbreak, the director of the facility, Thomas Feeley, ordered regular, thorough cleaning, including wiping down door handles with bleach every hour.
"Every time you turn around," the source said, "you smell bleach."
There is medical staff on duty inside the facility 24/7 and posters have been placed in the facility to inform detainees about COVID-19 and how to protect themselves.
So far, about 20 percent of the detainees have been tested, the source said.
At the start of the coronavirus outbreak, detainees who were over age 60, had underlying medical conditions that made them vulnerable, but were not convicted of a serious crime such as murder or rape, were released from custody, the source said.
"Nobody was released who was a threat to society," he said.