More migrant girls arrive at Convention Center as officials report dozens of positive COVID-19 cases

DOWNTOWN (KUSI) – More than 30 of the more than 500 unaccompanied migrant children being held at the San Diego Convention Center, girls between the ages of 13 and 17, have tested positive for COVID-19, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced today.

At least 27 of the girls, who were transferred to California from a Border Patrol facility in Texas this weekend, tested positive for the virus. HHS Acting Regional Director Bonnie Preston said the cases stem from the Texas facility.

Another six girls tested positive after taking rapid tests while at the convention center. None of the cases are serious, according to the HHS, and all are symptomatic at this time.

The asylum seekers are separated into pods of about 50, which won’t intermingle.

Preston said the girls who tested positive are being sheltered away from the rest of the migrant girls under COVID-19 protocol.

Around 250 more teens were scheduled to fly into San Diego Monday, for a total of around 750 children held at the San Diego Convention Center.

The first group of children arrived Saturday evening after flying on three charter flights from Texas and were taken by multiple buses to the temporary shelter at the convention center. The planes landed at the San Diego Airport between 9 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Saturday.

The girls were tested for COVID-19 before arriving in San Diego and will be tested every three days while staying at the convention center, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The creation of such emergency intake sites is designed to shift the minors — most of whom are from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — more quickly out of U.S. Border Patrol custody while helping to alleviate overcrowding at border holding facilities.

On March 22, city and county officials announced that they would make the convention center available for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to use as a temporary shelter for minors up to age 17.

The site will be used for about 90 days, with the average stay for each child averaging 30-35 days, city officials said. The children will be provided with food, medical care, a place to sleep and showers.

A recreation area will also be used on the exterior of the facility. The children will not be permitted to leave the facility until they are reunified with family members in the United States or connected with other sponsors.

The Health and Human Services Refugee Resettlement Program will fund the temporary shelter, and additional partners include the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Center for Disease Control and the convention center.

After learning that teachers will be giving in-person instruction to the girls being sheltered, Congressman Darrell Issa weighted in, “For more than a year, parents and students in San Diego County have waited for educators to answer one question: When will our schools reopen with in-person instruction only? And for a year, they’ve been told to wait. The decision to provide in-person instruction to illegal migrants is outrageous and parents have every right to be angry.”

KUSI’s Hunter Sowards joins us live from the Convention Center with more.

Categories: Coronavirus, Local San Diego News