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Federal Health Departments Alarmed about Increases in Communicable Disease as Migrants enter Communities

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Concerns raised by the New York City Health Commissioner in April of this year have now escalated to where federal, state, and city health departments are issuing public health alerts to address the growing threat to community health as a result of the influx of migrants crossing the southern border.

In Chicago the Department of Public Health (CDPH) Commissioner, Dr. Simbo Ige, expressed deep concern about the rise in chickenpox (varicella) cases, particularly within the past four weeks. The majority of these cases, a staggering 81%, were reported in individuals newly arrived from the U.S. southern border and living in shelters.

90% of the cases involved individuals who had not received the chickenpox vaccine. Since January 1, Chicago has reported nearly 400 cases of chickenpox, a stark increase from the median of 53 cases reported annually from 2005 to 2022. In response, the CDPH has instructed public schools to ensure incoming students are vaccinated and mandated the reporting of all confirmed chickenpox cases within 24 hours.

In Illinois, the Department of Public Health (IDPH) has taken action against the alarming rise in congenital syphilis cases, nearly tripling since 2021.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued an alert about an increase in monkeypox cases reported statewide. Californians are being encouraged to familiarize themselves with the signs and symptoms of monkeypox and take preventive measures, including vaccination, to protect against severe illness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also issued a nationwide alert, highlighting the geographic spread of monkeypox in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and advising clinicians to report cases with relevant symptoms and recent travel to the affected region to their state health departments.

The Center Square reports:

According to the CDC, refugees and asylum seekers are not required to comply with vaccination requirements before coming to the U.S. However, they must comply when they apply to become Lawful Permanent Residents. The agency “strongly recommends” vaccines for refugees and asylum seekers “to protect against vaccine-preventable diseases, avoid delays in movement, and because school-aged children may be required to meet school-entry vaccination requirements upon school enrollment in the United States.” It also published a recommended, not mandatory, vaccination program for them, including an immunization schedule.

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Report: Denver area migrants cost $340 million to shelter, educate

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A report by the free-market Common Sense Institute found the more than 42,000 migrants who have arrived in Denver over the last year and a half have cost the region as much as $340 million. The city of Denver, local school districts, and the region’s health-care system have spent between $216 million and $340 million combined to shelter, feed, clothe, and educate the migrants, and to provide them with emergency medical care.

National Review explains the report builds off a previous report from March that conservatively found that the migrants had cost the region at least $170 million. “Costs are never localized,” said DJ Summers, the institute’s research director. “They expand outward.”

Democratic leaders are being blamed for their welcoming posture toward immigrants generally, and their sanctuary-city policies, which curtail law enforcement’s ability to cooperate with federal immigration agents. Since late December 2022, at least 42,269 migrants — or “newcomers” as Denver leaders call them — have arrived in the city, adds National Review.

The Common Sense Institute report found that the migrant crisis has also hit local emergency rooms hard with extensive expenses. Since December 2022, migrants have made more than 16,000 visits to metro emergency departments. At an estimated cost of about $3,000 per visit, that has resulted in nearly $48 million in uncompensated care.

Summers said those costs are “stressing existing health care organizations,” but they also indirectly hit residents in their pocketbooks through increased insurance prices.

Metro school districts have endured the biggest financial hit — estimated between $98 million and $222 million — according to the Common Sense Institute report. The large range in costs is due to the difficulties researchers had identifying exactly how many new foreign students are tied to the migrant crisis.

The researchers found that since December 2022, 15,725 foreign students have enrolled in local schools. Of those, 6,929 have come from the five countries most closely identified with the migrant crisis — Venezuela, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

On average, it costs a little over $14,000 to educate a student for a year in a Denver-area public school, but Summers said migrant students likely cost more.

“They have transportation needs that are different, they have acculturation needs that are going to be different, language assistance needs that are going to be different,” he said. “Many of them might need to get up to speed in curriculum. They might need outside tutoring.”

Earlier this year, Colorado lawmakers approved $24 million in state funding to help school districts statewide plug budget holes related to the migrant students.

Summers said the updated Common Sense Institute tally is likely still missing some costs related to the ongoing migrant crisis.

“There are definitely additional costs. We just don’t have a great way to measure them just yet,” he said, noting legal fees, crime, and unreported business and nonprofit expenses.

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