Wyatt Detention Facility reports first detainee case of COVID-19


CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls has reported its first case of a detainee testing positive for COVID-19.

According to a report filed with the U.S. District Court of Rhode Island, the person is a U.S. Marshals Service detainee. The facility said it learned of the positive case on Tuesday morning, the same day the report was filed. The facility is currently on lockdown and is conducting contact tracing to determine next steps, the report said.

The report was filed in response to an order from the court’s Chief Judge John McConnell, who has directed the federal detention facility to file twice-weekly reports “concerning the incidence of infection of COVID- 19 at Wyatt and the measures undertaken to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at Wyatt.”

In his order, McConnell said lawyers have asked for the release of detainees at Wyatt who are awaiting trial. He said the reports from the detention center will provide judges and parties in these cases with the information needed to properly assess those requests.

The Wyatt filed its first report Tuesday, revealing three of its 580 detainees have been tested for COVID-19; only one has tested positive. Eighteen staff members have also been tested, but all have come back negative for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Chris Hunter, a spokesperson for the Wyatt, said the positive detainee is now in isolation. He declined to comment on when the detainee arrived, or how long they have been in isolation.

The report also outlines the steps the facility is taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including encouraging social distancing among detainees, screening new arrivals, implementing quarantine procedures and providing detainees with things like more soap and gloves. The facility, according to the report, also has two negative pressure isolation units, and is working to expand that to 48 beds.

Over the weekend, the R.I. chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit seeking the immediate release of three immigrants being detained at the Wyatt, alleging they are at risk of serious illness or death due to COVID-19. A spokesperson for the Wyatt declined to comment on the pending legal matter.

Demonstrators also held a protest at the Wyatt earlier this month, and some ICE detainees inside the facility launched a three-day hunger strike and penned a public letter expressing their concerns about the coronavirus.

The Wyatt is a publicly owned and privately-operated federal detention facility.

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