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First COVID-19 Case Reported At Migrant Camp In Matamoros

The first confirmed case of COVID-19 has been reported at a migrant camp in Matamoros, Mexico. More than 2,000 men, women and children have been living there waiting for their immigration court cases to unfold in the U.S. under the Trump administration’s Remain in Mexico policy.

Global Response Management has been at the migrant camp for months. They provide health services to the asylum seekers. Officials with the organization reported they identified an individual on Thursday, June 25 with COVID-19 symptoms.

The individual was isolated in an area outside of the camp, along with three family members, and they were tested. The individual's test result was positive for the virus, but the three family members tested negative. There are also two other individuals waiting for COVID-19 test results.

Advocates and immigration attorneys have been concerned for months now that the virus could spread like wildfire at the camp and have called on the U.S. government to parole them into the U.S. so they can quarantine with relatives instead of living at the migrant camp.

The person & 3 family members were isolated to an area outside the camp

The 4 of them got a PCR test, yesterday the test came back positive for suspected patient— Reynaldo Leaños Jr. (@ReynaldoLeanos) June 30, 2020

Dr. Michele Heisler is the medical director for the Physicians for Human Rights and a professor of internal medicine and public health at University of Michigan. She said the confirmation of the first COVID-19 case in the encampment is tragic, but should not come as a surprise.

“For months, public health experts have sounded the alarm that people in these under-resourced migrant encampments and shelters along the U.S.-Mexico border… face disproportionate risks from COVID-19,” she said in a statement.

“This was the first confirmed positive COVID-19 case but surely won’t be the last.” 

If asylum seekers aren’t released into the U.S. to shelter in place with friends and family, Heisler said the virus will cause “unimaginable death and suffering” through the camp.

Reynaldo Leaños Jr. can be reached at and on Twitter at @ReynaldoLeanos.

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People wait in line to receive a meal at a migrant camp in Matamoros, Mexico on March 17, 2020.
Verónica G. Cárdenas for TPR /
People wait in line to receive a meal at a migrant camp in Matamoros, Mexico on March 17, 2020.

Reynaldo Leanos Jr. covers immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border for Texas Public Radio.