State formally confirms COVID-19 outbreak at ICE’s Aurora detention site


AURORA | The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on Wednesday formally listed a north Aurora holding facility used to detain immigrants as one of several hundred facilities across Colorado with a confirmed outbreak of COVID-19.

The processing center, which is managed by The GEO Group Inc. on behalf of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has reported a total of 11 cases of the new coronavirus among the inmate population, according to the state health department and ICE statistics. There are currently eight inmates under isolation or monitoring.

The facility on Oakland Street typically holds about 500 people.

While the Colorado Department of Health and Environment confirmed the outbreak on May 30, people detained and working at the facility were reported sick nearly two weeks ago.

Congressman Jason Crow’s office, which issues regular reports on the facility’s population, reported there had been nine new cases at the facility as of May 28. Two ICE employees and six GEO employees had contracted the virus, according to Crow’s report.

At least two ICE staffers, five GEO staffers and two detainees were confirmed to have contracted the virus as early as May 20, according to additional reports from Crow’s office. Both of those detainees, one of whom was transferred from a state prison in Sterling, were put into isolation.

The initial reports of sick detainees in May prompted drive-by protests outside of the Aurora facility May 22.

A spokesperson for ICE said they were unclear about the state reporting timeline.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the state health department pointed to lags in the reporting process when describing why the report of an outbreak first appeared in June.

“It can take time for facilities and public health to work together to determine if there is an outbreak and to gather the necessary information to report it,” the spokesperson wrote. “Sometimes, there may also be a delay in getting data from the facility to the local public health agency or from the local public health agency to CDPHE.”

The state health department defines an outbreak as two or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 in a facility within a single two-week period.

There have been nearly 300 outbreaks reported in Colorado since the state began tracking in April, according to data. Several dozen of those have been resolved.

As of June 3, there have been 27,060 cases of COVID-19 in the state and more than 1,200 deaths. In Aurora, there have been 3,668 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 169 deaths, according to the Tri-County Health Department.