CALEXICO — Imperial Regional Detention Facility detention officers have alleged that the facility’s safeguards failed to adequately prevent the spread of COVID-19 among employees after an administrator tested positive last month.
The allegations were laid out in a pair of complaints filed in recent weeks with local and state officials by a detention officer and supervisor employed by Management & Training Corp. (MTC).
To date, six employees have tested positive for COVID-19. Of those six, four have returned to work, said Issa Arnita, MTC director of corporate communications.
“I think it’s important to note that we have no confirmed cases of COVID-19 among the detainees we serve,” Arnita said, adding that it remains unknown how the employees contracted the virus.
Those who have tested positive included detention, administrative, transportation and office staff, according to an MTC employee who asked to remain anonymous for fear of a possible reprisal.
The cases appeared to have originated with an administrator who reportedly was displaying symptoms and who was confirmed positive around April 10.
“By this point MTC and (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) had precautions in place in line with CDC recommendations that this manager chose to ignore,” the employee stated. “Four subsequent infections came from contact with (the employee).”
Detention officers, which are represented by a union formed about a year ago, have expressed concerns about reportedly not being provided or being allowed to use masks and gloves prior to the facility’s first positive case.
Additionally, IRDF staff whom MTC was reportedly aware of having had direct physical contact with the confirmed infected cases have not been required to stay home as per quarantine guidelines, the employee stated.
“The company has refused to provide testing to staff exposed to these individuals and has refused to provide paid leave as per the Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” they said.
Prior to the confirmation of the facility’s first COVID case, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines did not require all staff to wear masks, Arnita stated in an email. While those in the medical department have always had access to full personal protective equipment.
“We have followed CDC guidelines, which have evolved over time,” Arnita said. “Currently, all officers and detainees wear masks. All staff are using gloves.”
Contrary to what the MTC employee stated, the company did not prohibit its staff from using masks and gloves prior to an employee having tested positive, Arnita said.
If staff met the CDC recommendations, including exposure and length of exposure to a positive COVID-19 case, they would need to self-isolate at home.
And anyone who may have been exposed to someone with a positive case self-isolated at home and could voluntarily be tested. Paid leave was also made available for those impacted employees, Arnita said.