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First coronavirus case confirmed in ICE detention

March 24 (UPI) -- An Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainee in Pennsylvania tested positive for the coronavirus, immigration officials said Tuesday.

It's the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in someone held ICE custody. There are more than 52,000 cases and 670 deaths in the United States as of 3:30 p.m., according to Johns Hopkins University.

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The patient, a 31-year-old Mexican national, has been quarantined and is receiving medical treatment, ICE said in a news release.

"Consistent with CDC guidelines, those who have come in contact with the individual have been cohorted and are being monitored for symptoms," the release said. "ICE is suspending intake at the facility until further information is available."

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The American Civil Liberties Union has called on prisons, jails and immigrant detention centers to release inmates "who are most vulnerable to COVID-19," including the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions that makes the disease more serious for them.

The organization has sued ICE detention centers in Maryland and Pennsylvania to seek the release of those at risk.

"ICE will be responsible for a humanitarian tragedy if it does not heed the advice of public health experts now," the ACLU said.

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Over the weekend, a Pennsylvania court ordered the transfer of a death row inmate to a hospital for testing and treatment for possible COVID-19. Walter Ogrod has had symptoms consistent with COVID-19, including cough, difficulty breathing and a 106-degree fever.

Last month, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office filed briefs in court saying Ogrod is "likely innocent" of assaulting and killing a 4-year-old girl in 1988. They said he was convicted on flawed evidence, including a coerced confession and testimony from discredited jailhouse informants.

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday plans to release some 300 inmates with non-violent misdemeanor charges if they fall within certain criteria that makes them more vulnerable to the virus.

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