Among the unaccompanied migrant girls who are staying temporarily at the San Diego Convention Center, 37 are positive for COVID-19 as of late Monday afternoon.

Bonnie Preston of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services told the San Diego Union-Tribune that most of the girls who tested positive did so before leaving Texas, where they had been held in Border Patrol station holding cells after crossing into the United States from Mexico. The rest tested positive after arrival.

The group of 27 girls who tested positive in Texas was put on a special quarantine flight to San Diego. They were the first to arrive at the convention center on Saturday night, and they were taken to special COVID-positive accommodations on a separate floor from the rest of the arriving children.

“We’re so blessed at the convention center that it’s so big,” Preston said.

Preston said she wasn’t surprised that some of the girls had tested positive given the ongoing pandemic.

The Biden administration has pushed in recent weeks to open up temporary bed space to move children out of Border Patrol custody more quickly. The legal limit for children to stay in Border Patrol custody is 72 hours, but because of a backlog in transferring those children to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement, many children have stayed in the holding cells for much longer.

Since those additional facilities have opened, the 30-day average for the number of children released from Border Patrol custody has increased, according to data from Health and Human Services.

Beginning on Saturday, the San Diego Convention Center became one of the many facilities temporarily housing children for the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Six girls who had previously tested negative for COVID-19 before the trip tested positive on arrival at the convention center, Preston said. Those girls were added to the COVID-positive rooms, and the girls who had been on the bus with them were put into a third area for children who have been exposed to the coronavirus.

After arrival, the children are tested again for the coronavirus every three days. The children who were exposed to the virus are tested more frequently.

Since Saturday, four girls from among those who were exposed have tested positive, Preston said on late Monday afternoon, bringing the total who have tested positive since arrival to 10.

None of the girls have had symptoms, Preston said, but staff from Rady Children’s Hospital are on site in case any do develop that require treatment.

Both the girls who have tested positive for COVID-19 and the girls who were exposed have continued with their normal activities at the facility, Preston said. The majority of staff working with the girls have already been vaccinated, she added, and the girls who tested positive are wearing double masks.

The convention center didn’t receive any new arrivals on Sunday, and Preston is expecting that an additional 250 will arrive on Monday evening.

This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune.


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