Three Nogales-based employees of U.S. Customs and Border Protection have tested positive for COVID-19, the agency revealed Monday.
CBP did not release any details about the cases, such as when the people had tested positive, their current condition, community of residence, ages or gender.
In all, 160 employees of the agency had confirmed cases of the disease nationwide, with nearly one-third of those in New York. The only other location in Arizona listed was Tucson, which also had three confirmed cases.
CBP operates U.S. ports of entry, and is also the parent agency of the U.S. Border Patrol. The data posted to its website regarding COVID-19 infections did not specify which part of the agency the people work for.
The data was up-to-date as of April 5, CBP said on its website.
It wasn't clear if the three cases involving Nogales-based CBP employees were counted among the five confirmed cases in Santa Cruz County that had been reported by the local health services department as of noon Monday. Some CBP employees who work in Nogales live outside of the county, and Health Services Director Jeff Terrell told the NI that the location of cases is determined by the person's place of residence.
“CBP is taking every available precaution to minimize the risk of exposure to our workforce and to members of the public with whom we interact,” an agency spokesperson said in a statement.
According to the agency’s website: “CBP has provided extensive guidance to all of its employees regarding the risk-based use of personal protective equipment (PPE). PPE recommendations range from gloves to N95 respirators, eye protection, disposable outer garments and more based on infectious disease risks, job functions and job settings.”
The Border Patrol agents' union tweeted on Monday that “Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit us the physical fitness level of our agents has hit a low point. The Union and HQ fixed the problem, but because TUCSON has a part time Chief, HQ’s guidance has not been disseminated and our agents are suffering.”
“Where is Chief Scott?” the union asked, in reference to national Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott.
The National Border Patrol Council Local 2544, which represents agents in the Tucson Sector, retweeted the message, adding the hashtag “#NoLeadership.”
The NI and other media outlets had been trying to get CBP to confirm COVID-19 infections among its employees in the Nogales area since March 25, when the Washington Examiner published excerpts of a text the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector chief reportedly sent to employees saying that a Nogales Station employee had tested positive.
CBP had initially told reporters that Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan would provide more information during a conference call on March 27, but the call was cancelled. Last Friday, the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector hosted a conference call with reporters to talk about the agency’s tactics in dealing with undocumented migrants amid the coronavirus outbreak, but refused to discuss infections among employees.