Gov. Ralph Northam on Thursday asked that the federal government perform more screening and testing for COVID-19 at the Farmville and Caroline County detention centers.
Northam offered state help to do so in a letter to Virginia’s congressional delegation that was copied to the Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights and the Legal Aid Justice Center. The centers are run by U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement.
“I request that the Virginia Congressional Delegation urge the federal government to increase screening and testing for COVID-19 within these detention centers. Again, the Virginia Department of Health would be willing to support these efforts,” he wrote.
Last week, state Del. Ibraheem Samirah, D-Fairfax, asked ICE to release all undocumented detainees from what he said were life-threatening conditions in Virginia’s immigrant detention centers. He also asked Northam and U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine to close both centers.
Northam wrote that testing everyone in the facilities, including detainees, staff and contractors, will help protect the health of those living in the facilities as well as the surrounding communities.
The centers are operated by the federal government and Virginia has limited authority to enter them. However, the Virginia Department of Health is supporting point-prevalence surveys in other similar settings, such as long-term care facilities and correctional facilities, Northam’s letter noted.
Point-prevalence testing of people not displaying COVID-19 symptoms has been conducted at eight Virginia prisons and other correctional facilities where more than 700 offenders have tested positive.
“Increased testing in those settings helps mitigate the spread of the virus, both within the facility and in the communities in which the facilities are located,” according to the governor’s office.
ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.