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Hawaiʻi-based doctor runs COVID tests at US-Mexico border

Biden Border
Gregory Bull/AP
FILE - Migrants wait to be processed to seek asylum after crossing the border into the United States, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, near Yuma, Ariz. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

COVID-19 testing will be ramping up at the U.S. southern border and Hawai‘i-based Dr. Scott Miscovich is helping to lead the effort.

Miscovich said his company, Premier Medical Group Hawaii, has tested an average of 500 migrants over the last six months along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona. Of those being tested, about 10% are coming back positive.

But with Title 42 — the law that allows the government to turn away certain migrants to stop the spread of COVID — set to expire Thursday, he expects that number to increase.

Tens of thousands of people are waiting in Mexico after fleeing from violence, poverty and political instability all over the hemisphere. And they're increasingly desperate for a chance to seek asylum in the U.S., after being effectively blocked by Title 42, NPR reports.

"We're anticipating, especially the first few weeks, it's probably going to go to 2,000 a day, and it could be higher. We're hoping that it will settle to be about 1,500 a day, but that is not likely going to go below that number," Miscovich said.

"I guess you could say there's a lot of anxiety across the board. We're increasing our staffing to be prepared," he told HPR.

Miscovich said about half of the migrants coming across the southern border are from Mexico and Central America. The other half is a new surge of immigrants from India, China and Indonesia.

"You can imagine these individuals have come from all over the world and they've had treacherous journeys, and so we have now because the volume is going so high, they've asked us to create a miniature urgent care right within the large building that we're using to process the immigrants," he added.

This interview aired on The Conversation on May 9, 2023. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Corrected: May 10, 2023 at 9:32 AM HST
This story incorrectly stated that Title 42 ends next week. It ends Thursday, May 11.
Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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