Flu cases at local migrant shelter up to nearly 60

SAN DIEGO — Health officials Wednesday reported a dozen new cases of influenza-like illnesses among undocumented immigrants sheltered in San Diego.

That brings the number of immigrants displaying symptoms at a downtown shelter to 59 since dozens began arriving daily last week from a federal facility in McAllen, Texas. Thirty-three families — 82 people in all — remain quarantined at various hotels in San Diego.

Federal officials shut down the Texas facility for cleaning after the outbreak and began moving the detainees to San Diego.

The first of those transfers arrived in San Diego on May 19. Hundreds of people at a migrant shelter in Bankers Hill operated by Jewish Family Service of San Diego have since received a health screening.

The number of new cases is the largest since Friday, when health officials confirmed 13 new flu cases at the shelter. The county confirmed six additional cases over Memorial Day weekend.

DHS officials and U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced the plan to begin flying detained asylum seekers from Texas to San Diego on May 17. Federal immigration authorities are operating 10 jets between San Diego and Texas, with roughly 130 people aboard each flight. DHS officials said they aim to charter three flights a week to San Diego International Airport, from which the asylum seekers will be moved to local CBP processing stations like Brown Field.

The transportation is necessary, according to federal immigration authorities, because CBP facilities are largely overwhelmed with new detainees, many of them families and children requesting asylum. CBP agents have detained an average of 4,500 migrants at the border each day this year.

The agency is currently holding about 8,000 people at its detention facility in McAllen, Texas, two times the agency’s maximum capacity in the area. CBP agents temporarily closed processing operations at the facility last week among a flu outbreak of its own, which resulted in the death of a 16- year-old Guatemalan boy. Roughly three dozen immigrants and asylum seekers at the facility are currently quarantined, the Washington Post reported.

San Diego County health officials define a flu outbreak as one person being diagnosed with the virus and a second person contracting and developing the disease within 72 hours. The county said it plans to continue monitoring the situation and providing updates on new flu cases at the shelter.

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