July 2, 2020

Border wall workers come down with COVID-19

Nearly a dozen people working on President Trump’s border wall in Arizona have been infected with the coronavirus.

Nearly a dozen people working on President Donald Trump’s border wall in Arizona have been infected with the coronavirus.

The cases were first noticed by county health officials in south-central Arizona last month. There’s been 11 so far diagnosed. All are contractors or employees of contractors working for the Kiewit Infrastructure West Company, which has been rewarded a significant share of border wall contracts for the Trump administration.

Francisco Garcia is chief medical officer for Pima County.

"Given the amount of case growth, it’s not that surprising that when we do digging into these cases that there has been an increase," he said. "Yes, it's a significant number. We are experiencing increases all over. This is not where our elevations in Pima County are coming from."

Garcia noted that increases of COVID-19 are predominantly among social interaction transmissions of people between 18 and 40 years.

The border town of Lukeville has been an epicenter of Kiewit’s border wall projects in Arizona as the Trump administration races to complete 450 miles of the project before the November elections.

In an email, a Customs and Border Protection spokesman sent this statement from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:

"The safety of our employees, including that of our contractors, and the people in the communities in which we work is our top priority. We're taking aggressive measures to protect our workforce so we can continue operations to help secure the nation's southern border. We're maximizing the use of teleconferencing, social distancing, diligently cleaning personal and public areas, and supporting flexible work schedules which includes teleworking. In addition, each contractor submits an Accident Prevention Plan to the Corps, which includes measures for the safety and health of their employees. Contractors have amended their plans to include measures to account for COVID-19, following all CDC, federal, state, and local guidelines that include social distancing, sanitization of shared surfaces (like vehicles and equipment), and quarantining of employees who are sick or experience any symptoms related to coronavirus."

Border town residents have complained for months about border wall workers in Ajo and across the state in Bisbee for not following social distancing guidelines and for not wearing masks.

Fronteras Desk
Fronteras Desk is a KJZZ project covering important stories in an expanse stretching from Northern Arizona deep into northwestern Mexico.
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