Houlton welcomes back CBP officer who contracted COVID-19 at southern border

3 years ago

HOULTON, Maine — When Kostas Papadopoulos entered Houlton on a rainy Tuesday afternoon riding in a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol vehicle, it was the end of a long journey that had taken him from one end of the United States to the other. 

Papadopoulos, a CBP officer who was stationed in the Houlton sector of the U.S.-Canada border, had been transferred to the Mexican border at the Rio Grande Valley Central Processing Center in Texas to help combat the ongoing migrant crisis occurring there. The crisis has drawn national attention for many of the facilities having poor conditions for migrants and unaccompanied children, often overpacked and lacking proper sanitation, overwhelmed by the number of arrivals at the southern border. 

Combined with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the migrant crisis has also become a public health crisis, with the conditions of the facilities and the large number of arriving migrants, most of whom are unvaccinated, making it easy for the virus to proliferate among new arrivals and CBP officers stationed at the facility. 

On March 25, less than a month after he first arrived in Texas, Papadopoulos began feeling ill with coronavirus symptoms, and tested positive for COVID-19. He was admitted to the Valley Baptist Hospital in nearby Harlingen, and spent six weeks in the intensive care unit as he fought against the disease which has claimed more than 600,000 American lives. 

With Papadopoulos being treated in Texas, family and friends in Houlton began a campaign to bring him back home. A GoFundMe page was started by family friend Dayna Lincoln, raising more than $34,000 to provide for an out-of-pocket medical evacuation flight from Texas to Boston. 

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the love, support, and prayers of our community, friends, border patrol family and even strangers,” Jaclyn Papadopoulos, Kostas’ wife, said. “Getting him the medical care he not only needed, but deserved, and ultimately getting him back home for continued care was a joint effort.”

Kostas Papadopoulos arrived in Boston on May 10, where he continued to receive treatment. On June 22, he finally returned home, being greeted with a parade of family and friends as well as local Customs and Border Patrol and other law enforcement. 

“During this difficult time Kostas has managed to stay in the fight and persevere,” said Jodi Williams, the active patrol agent in charge of the Houlton station. “We are all extremely proud of him and are overjoyed that he is finally home with his family.”

“The concern for our law enforcement and front line workers, and in turn their families contracting COVID-19 is a real concern,” Jacyln Papadopoulos said. “These men and women serving our country have signed up to protect and defend the constitution of the United States of America. They selflessly serve.”

HOULTON, Maine – June 23, 2021 — A car in a parade welcoming home Kostas Papadopoulos from the Mexican border waves an American flag to mark his return. (Alexander MacDougall, Houlton Pioneer Times)

HOULTON, Maine – June 23, 2021 –Hank and Ellie Papadopoulos get ready to greet their father, Kostas, after he returned to Houlton following treatment in Texas and Boston for COVID-19. (Alexander MacDougall, Houlton Pioneer Times)

HOULTON, Maine – June 23, 2021 — Family and friends of Kostas Papadopoulos stand outside in the parking lot of Mardens in Houlton before a parade welcoming him home from the southern border in Texas. (Alexander MacDougall, Houlton Pioneer Times)