Tennessee conducts another round of mass testing in prisons

Published 3:43 pm Monday, April 20, 2020

NASHVILLE (AP) — Tennessee has launched a third round of mass testing inside the state’s prisons after 150 inmates tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend.
The Department of Correction announced Monday that testing of 3,100 inmates was conducted at Bledsoe County Correctional Complex, the Northwest Correctional Complex in Tiptonville, and the Turney Center Industrial Complex in Only.
According to the agency, 424 inmates were tested at the Bledsoe County facility on Saturday, where 150 of those tested positive for coronavirus and then isolated from the rest of the prison population.
Overall, since April 4, more than 160 inmates have tested positive at the Bledsoe County facility — the highest yet compared to other facilities. As a result, all inmates at that facility are being tested for the virus.
Meanwhile, Turney Center Industrial Complex has seen just five confirmed COVID-19 cases among its inmate population and Northwest Correctional Complex has seen two COVID-19 inmate cases. The Trousdale Turner Correctional Center has seen just one inmate test positive for the virus.
“Cloth masks have been provided to all staff and inmates as well as county jails, sheriff’s departments, THP and health care workers,” said Correction Commissioner Tony Parker in a statement.
Separately, Gov. Bill Lee announced that more than 11,000 Tennesseans received a free COVID-19 test regardless if they had any “traditional” symptoms.
The Tennessee National Guard put up more than 20 drive-thru testing sites on Saturday and 19 sites on Sunday — more than what the state originally planned.
“Tennesseans across the state heeded the call of ‘when in doubt, get a test’ and we believe these efforts will be an important part of our overall strategy to reboot Tennessee’s economy,” said Lee said in a statement. “While demand exceeded original projections, our Unified-Command group adapted quickly this weekend so that individuals who needed tests could receive them.”
The expanded testing sites — held outside of Tennessee’s populated city areas — were held the same weekend as a handful of protesters gathered in Nashville and Chattanooga to urge officials to reopen the economy.
More drive-thru testing sites will be available during the weekends of April 25-26 and May 2-3.
Coronavirus testing also has expanded in Shelby County, the state’s largest in population. Sites have opened in the Memphis neighborhoods of Frayser and Hickory Hill after complaints by activists and elected officials that testing has been insufficient in predominantly black areas of the city.
About 20,000 people have been tested so far in the county of about 935,000 people, Mayor Lee Harris said Monday.
Meanwhile, Tennessee officials also recently announced that free child care is now available to essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Tennessee Department of Human Services says the offer involves payment assistance and a network of temporary care locations to offer the free care through June 15.
The department will arrange payments for care with licensed programs once workers are approved for the initiative. Eligible workers can apply online.
Essential workers with school-aged children can also register at one of the temporary and emergency child care locations set up by the YMCA and the Boys & Girls Clubs in Tennessee. Parents seeking care at the temporary locations do not need to apply with the state first.
Eligible essential workers include employees of a health care entity, law enforcement, first responders, corrections officers, military, activated National Guard, human and social services workers, postal workers, transportation employees, restaurant workers or grocery workers.

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