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COVID-19

Active COVID-19 Cases Confirmed In More Than 20 Texas Migrant Youth Facilities

Casa Sunzal’s building has two floors, with dozens of dorm rooms that can house up to 223 migrant teens.
Courtesy of Southwest Key
Casa Sunzal’s building has two floors, with dozens of dorm rooms that can house up to 223 migrant teens.

More than 75 migrant children in Texas are currently in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19, according to both state and federal health officials.

These active cases are spread out among 23 different Texas shelters that care for unaccompanied minors — kids who cross the border without a guardian.

Cases are concentrated in facilities in Houston, San Antonio and the Rio Grande Valley, according to Texas Department of Health and Human Services.

At one shelter, more than two-thirds of the kids may currently be under isolation for COVID-19.

State officials confirmed that seven children at Southwest Key’s Casa Sunzal facility near downtown Houston tested positive for the coronavirus between Dec. 1 and Dec. 7.

As of Nov. 18, just 10 migrant kids were being held at that facility in total. State officials were unable to provide a more current census of the shelter population.

“Considering the relatively lower number of children who are currently in (U.S. Health and Human Services) custody or (Office of Refugee Resettlement) custody, or have been over the past few months since the epidemic started, that's a really high percentage of children,” said Julie Pasch, immigration attorney with Deportation Defense Houston.

Migrant shelter populations have remained low throughout 2020 — just 1,236 kids were held in facilities across Texas as of the November count. Statewide capacity is more than 7,500.

In Texas, more than 760 migrant children have tested positive for the virus since March, according to U.S. Health and Human Services.

Texas facilities account for more than 70% of the migrant shelter COVID-19 cases nationwide.

No cases have required hospitalization and hundreds of children have been released to a sponsor, according to federal officials.

In addition to the positive cases among kids, nearly a thousand shelter personnel have also tested positive nationwide.

Officials didn't specify where these cases were concentrated.
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