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Hundreds of migrant kids with positive COVID-19 tests held in shelters

Nearly 2,900 unaccompanied minors tested positive for COVID-19 on arrival at U.S. government shelters over the past year — including around 300 currently in the system — a Department of Health and Human Services official tells Axios.

The big picture: The numbers highlight the staggering challenges in trying to manage a child migration crisis during a pandemic, while weighing human rights and child welfare concerns against immigration laws.


Details: Of the unaccompanied children currently in shelters, only about 3% are currently in isolation after testing positive when they arrived, according to the latest statistics provided to Axios.

  • About 7.4% of tests given to unaccompanied minors in the past year turned out positive, according to HHS's stats.
  • "The positivity rate in general is what was anticipated, and planning has resulted in robust response," HHS spokesperson Mark Weber told Axios. There are more than 200 facilities in 22 states.
  • But the positivity rate has been higher — about 10% — at the Carrizo Springs shelter in Texas, opened last month as the first overflow shelter to be used by the Biden administration.
  • Youth are tested upon arrival, Weber said, and those who test positive are taken to a negative-pressure medical isolation bed on site and get around-the-clock care. Carrizo Springs has 180 nurses, doctors and medical personnel, 12 epidemiologists and two public health experts.

By the numbers: Since March 24, 2020, 38,932 COVID-19 viral tests were conducted for unaccompanied children entering facilities.

  • There were 2,897 lab-confirmed COVID-19 tests for unaccompanied children in that time period — and 2,578 have recovered and were moved out of medical isolation — according to HHS.
  • Currently, 319 unaccompanied children are in medical isolation, while government data obtained by Axios puts the current number of kids in HHS shelters at more than 11,500.

What we're watching: After crossing the border, unaccompanied minors are first placed in border patrol stations for processing. Customs and Border Protection does not test migrants while in their custody, relying on local public health agencies, nongovernmental organizations and HHS.

  • Minors are only legally supposed to be held for a maximum of 72 hours in the border stations, but due to backlogs in HHS's system of shelters, thousands have been recently held longer than that.
  • Many border facilities are far beyond their pandemic capacity, and photos first reported on by Axios reveal crowded, makeshift conditions in at least one temporary overflow shelter.

Go deeper: Houston Public Media has details on the situation in Texas.

China makes history with successful Mars landing

A Chinese lander carrying a rover successfully touched down on Mars for the first time, state media reports.

Why it matters: This is the first time China has landed a spacecraft on another planet, and it launches the nation into an elite club of only a few space agencies to successfully make it to the Martian surface.

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UN: 10,000 Palestinians flee homes in Gaza as Israel-Hamas fighting escalates

The United Nations warned Friday that ongoing fighting between Israel and Hamas "has the potential to unleash an uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis," in not only the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel, but "the region as a whole."

The big picture: More than 125 Palestinians, including 31 children have been killed in Gaza since fighting began Monday, per the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Seven people, including one child, have been killed in Israel, according to Israeli authorities.

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Bernie Sanders: The U.S. must recognize that "Palestinian rights matter"

The United States must encourage an immediate cease-fire in the Middle East and adopt an "evenhanded approach" that recognizes Palestinians and Israelis have a right to "live in peace and security," Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) wrote in a New York Times opinion on Friday.

Driving the news: Violence escalated this week after Israelis intensified efforts to evict Palestinians from their homes in Jerusalem. Hamas fired rockets and Israel massed troops, leaving more than 125 Palestinians and seven people in Israel dead.

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Uber launches new anti-racism efforts, hires new inclusive design lead

Eager to show progress on the pledge to make its platform and business anti-racist, Uber on Friday announced new anti-racism driver and rider campaigns, as well as fresh internal hiring practices, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Uber is one of the biggest ride hailing companies in the world. Its decisions impact the millions that use the platform, where drivers and riders alike say they have experienced racism.

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Ex-Gaetz associate admits to sex trafficking, agrees to cooperate with federal prosecutors

Joel Greenberg, a former associate of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), agreed to cooperate with federal investigators and admitted to a variety of federal charges including sex trafficking a minor, New York Times reported Friday citing court papers.

Why it matters: Investigators believe Greenberg introduced women to Gaetz for paid sex and are looking into the Florida congressman's alleged sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl. Greenberg could be a key witness as federal prosecutors decide whether to charge Gaetz.

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White House: User fees for infrastructure deal would "violate" Biden's tax pledge

The White House on Friday said that Republicans' idea to impose user fees for infrastructure spending would "violate" President Biden's promise not to raise taxes on Americans making less than $400,000 annually.

What they're saying: "The president's pledge and his commitment, his line in the sand, his red line, whatever you want to call it, is that he will not raise taxes for people making less than $400,000 a year," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. "User fees that have been proposed out there would violate that."

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City of Columbus, Andre Hill's family agree to $10M settlement over the fatal police shooting

Columbus, Ohio, on Friday reached a $10 million settlement with the family of Andre Hill, an unarmed Black man who was fatally shot by police as he walked out of a garage while holding a cellphone.

What they're saying: "We understand that because of this former officer's actions, the Hill family will never be whole," City Attorney Zach Klein said in a statement. "No amount of money will ever bring Andre Hill back to his family, but we believe this is an important and necessary step in the right direction."

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"Mass Effect": Gaming's biggest space opera returns

The iconic spacefaring adventure "Mass Effect" is back today with "Mass Effect: Legendary Edition," a single, remastered version of all three games.

Why it matters: There is no series like "Mass Effect" — even when it comes to BioWare's other choice-driven RPGs like "Dragon Age." "Mass Effect" is a big ol' space adventure first and foremost, but it’s also about loyalty, love, and tough calls.

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