FARMVILLE, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Senator Tim Kaine found continued problems with COVID-19 testing is one of the main takeaways from a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report on the coronavirus outbreak at the Farmville ICE Detention Center.
Senator Kaine, together with Senator Mark Warner and Governor Ralph Northam, requested the CDC step in and look into what led to the detention center’s outbreak that has killed one and infected more than 300 detainees.
Kaine weighed in on the report during a virtual roundtable Friday with Farmville leaders and health professionals. Kaine said the CDC’s review of the widespread COVID-19 outbreak at the Farmville immigration detention center revealed some issues were out of the facility’s control and had more to do with the turnaround time in testing.
“This is something that is very troubling,” Kaine said.
The CDC reports show tests conducted at a commercial lab “took an average of six days with a range of two–14 days, to return.”
“The longer to get results, the harder it is to keep somebody’s completed isolated or quarantined,” Kaine said.
The report from the nation’s top health agency also found tests were not run due to collection or lab errors.
“We have to expect our federal health agencies and the administration to be able to implement a testing regime where accurate results can be generated quickly,” Kaine said.
The report also found the outbreak was fueled by the transfer of 74 detainees from Arizona and Florida. Both states were coronavirus hot spots at the time; 69% of the transfers were positive for the virus.
“The transfer policy was foolish,” Kaine said.
Yet, Doctor Robert Nash with the Virginia Department of Health’s Piedmont Health District says it’s not just transfers everyone needs to worry about. He says when detainees are released into the community there’s no information.
“We don’t know if they are positive or negative or if their results are pending,” Nash said. “We have no idea where they are going.”
The good news: Farmville leaders confirmed the facility is not dealing with any new cases at this time.
The report found the outbreak was difficult to manage due to the housing design and limited room to isolate.
An image of the bunks included in the report shows social distancing is almost impossible. “I think this is going to be one of the lessons going forward as we think about new designs,” Kaine said.
Doctor Nash reported capacity has been reduced at the facility to 200. At mass capacity, the facility can hold 700 detainees.
Nash said the facility is now distributing the detainees more evenly throughout the center’s vacant wards. Homeland Security will continue to run point on capacity. In the interim, Senator Kaine said he would use the CDC report as a template for providing oversight and making the facility safer.