As COVID-19 continues to ravage the country, the acting commissioner for U.S. Customs and Border Protection said 10 CBP officers had died since March as a result of contracting the virus.

During a news conference Thursday afternoon to discuss the agency’s enforcement numbers for July, Acting CBP Commissioner Mark A. Morgan praised the implementation of Title 42 expulsions that went into effect in late March in an effort to protect its personnel as the virus took hold worldwide.

Morgan said the implementation of the new procedure has made a difference.

“CBP has lost 10 personnel in the line of duty because of COVID,” Morgan said. “In my opinion, as acting commissioner, there is no doubt Title 42 has prevented more tragic loss among our own workforce.”

In July, an Edinburg native working for U.S. Border Patrol died as a result of contracting the virus.

A more than 20-year veteran of the U.S. Border Patrol, agent Enrique J. Rositas died as a result of contracting COVID-19 on July 11. Rositas had worked in the McAllen Border Patrol sector for more than 20 years, according to Rio Grande Valley Chief Patrol Agent Brian Hastings.

Morgan reported 192,907 Title 8 apprehensions, and 105,331 Title 42 expulsions, nearly 300,000 total “enforcement actions,” on the Southwest border since March.

He called the implementation of the expulsions a public health issue and not immigration enforcement.

“The implementation of Title 42 has been a game changer to reduce the introduction of COVID-19 through illegal entry. Title order has nothing to do with immigration enforcement,” Morgan said. “I’ll say it again, Title 42 has nothing to do with immigration enforcement and everything to do with public health.”

In late March, local CBP representatives said agents would change how they operated with regard to the apprehension of migrants in an effort to protect its personnel amid the growing concern over COVID-19.

Agents who encounter people attempting to enter the country without authorization between ports of entry, will process them at a mobile processing unit out in the field, and immediately expel them from the country through the nearest port of entry.

The only exception would be for anyone who has a prior aggravated criminal offense, and is deemed to be a “threat to the U.S. and or Mexico,” CBP officials said during a conference call in late March.

Those people will be arrested, and taken in to be processed at a detention center.

As for the enforcement data for July, CBP reported it made contact with 38,347 single adults, families and unaccompanied children around ports of entry and another 2,399 were denied entry into the country at a port of entry after being declared “inadmissible,” the numbers show.

That’s a more than 50% decrease over the FY19 July numbers when CBP reported more than 81,000 encounters, also made up of single adults, families and unaccompanied children.

For the Rio Grande Valley sector, there was a more than 40% drop in unaccompanied minors encountered at the border, while the encounters of families dropped year over year in July — with more than 42,000 families arriving last July to nearly 2,000 families this July, the data shows.

The number of families and unaccompanied children has dwindled after seeing a surge in FY19, when Central American families began surrendering at and around ports of entry on the U.S.-Mexican border.

Of the more than 38,000 encounters CBP made in July, nearly 90% or 33,398 were encounters of single male adults, the statistics show.