One by one, a voice called out the names of 169 people just released by US Border Patrol. Migrants rose from folding chairs in a clinic warehouse and walked to a table of blue-robed workers, who swabbed their mouths.
All but two Cuban women tested negative for Covid-19 that February morning. They were quarantined to motel rooms, while other migrants boarded chartered buses to Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport for flights across the US.
Theirs were among just seven of 5,301 tests the Regional Center for Border Health near Yuma, Arizona, did last month for released migrants that were positive — a rate of 0.1%
Covid-19 rates are plunging among migrants crossing the border from Mexico as the Biden administration faces a Tuesday deadline to end or extend sweeping restrictions on asylum that are aimed at limiting the virus’ spread. Lower rates raise more questions about scientific grounds for a public health order that has caused migrants to be expelled from the United States more than 1.7 million times since March 2020 without a chance to request asylum.