Incoming Border Patrol Deputy Chief Raul Ortiz told Breitbart Texas his agents are better prepared to deal with the threat of the Coronavirus than any other law enforcement agency. Agents in the field confirmed they are prepared with training, personal protection equipment, and detection and processing protocols.
“I think our (agents) are probably more prepared or better prepared than any law enforcement agency out there,” U.S. Border Patrol Incoming Deputy Chief Raul L. Ortiz told Breitbart Texas in a recent phone interview. “We have instituted some safeguards. We are in the process of running the table-top exercises to make sure that we are prepared.”
Ortiz most recently served as the Del Rio Sector Chief Patrol agent before being appointed by CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan to the number two spot at Border Patrol headquarters.
The chief explained the agency’s history in dealing with these types of outbreaks in the past, including SARS and the Avian flu.
“We recognize that, right now, there’s not a huge risk,” he explained, “but potentially, there could be. What we are trying to do is work with our local medical facilities. We have protocols to isolate people that show symptoms — any type of symptoms.”
Ortiz said agents routinely deal with contagious diseases. “From 2014 on, we’ve had incidences where we’ve had to isolate entire stations because they became susceptible to the flu, scabies, and on and on.”
Border Patrol Agent Chris Cabrera, in his capacity as spokesman for the National Border Patrol Council and Local 3307 (in the Rio Grande Valley Sector) told Breitbart Texas in a phone interview on Tuesday that he is pleased with the planning and preparation coming from CBP headquarters and management.
“In McAllen, we have always had plenty of personal protection equipment including respirators, gloves, eye protection, and hand sanitizer,” Cabrera stated. “We now have a room filled with this equipment that is ready to be handed out if it becomes necessary.”
He explained his agents follow specific protocols to isolate migrants they apprehend who came from China and those who are traveling with them. They also monitor the migrants for any symptoms and immediately move them to hospitals for treatment if necessary.
Breitbart Texas Border Security Analyst Jaeson Jones spoke with agents in other stations who confirmed the availability of N95 masks and other protective gear that are stockpiled in their local stations and ready for use.
“They are using infectious disease protocols,” Jones said the agents told him. “Any Chinese citizens apprehended are isolated and tested.”
The agents told Jones they are also asking migrants from other nations if they have been in contact with Chinese nationals while they were trafficked through Mexico or anywhere along their route.
Responding to an inquiry from Breitbart Texas, CBP officials said:
CBP continues to facilitate CDC’s enhanced health screening at U.S. ports of entry. Consistent with CBP’S procedures, and in accordance with the Presidential Proclamation, individuals encountered by CBP with a nexus to China within 14 days of the encounter or with symptoms of illness are referred to CDC or local health officials for additional health screening.
Consistent with existing CBP procedures, individuals apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol between the ports of entry with symptoms of illness are referred to CDC or local health officials for additional health screening. Additionally, all persons in U.S. Border Patrol custody who meet the CDC’s coronavirus travel history and enhanced screening guidelines are being referred to CDC for additional screening.
The agency said specific data on individuals who may have been referred to CDC or deemed inadmissible under the travel restriction is “not available due to operational sensitivities and because the information continues to change rapidly.”
“CBP has issued guidance to all employees that outlines the current comprehensive use of Personal Protective Equipment (provided for employees) including guidance regarding wearing masks in the appropriate circumstances (using a risk-based approach),” officials concluded. The agency would not provide a copy of the guidance stating the document is for internal use and “cannot be shared.”
Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior political news contributor for the Breitbart Border team. He is an original member of the Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX and Facebook.