Tennessee reports 1st death of state inmate in outbreak

Published 10:26 am Wednesday, May 6, 2020

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Associated Press
NASHVILLE (AP) — Tennessee officials have reported the first death of a state inmate who tested positive for the coronavirus:  a man who was among the nearly 1,300 inmates who tested positive at one prison.
The state Department of Correction said Tuesday that the 67-year-old man was an inmate at Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, which is run by the Tennessee-based private company CoreCivic. The inmate was taken to the hospital April 25, tested positive there and died Monday, the department said. The inmate had underlying health conditions, said state Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey.
The exact cause of death is awaiting the medical examiner’s determination. The department and CoreCivic both declined to release the inmate’s name.
Officials say six inmates who tested positive in Tennessee’s prison system are hospitalized, including one in serious condition.
At the prison, inmates have been housed together according to whether they have the virus, said CoreCivic spokesman Ryan Gustin.
In recent mass testing, nearly 1,300 inmates — about 50% of all prisoners — and 50 staffers tested positive at the facility, while 583 — or about 25% — of the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex’s 2,322 inmates tested positive. Most had no symptoms.
At the Northwest Correctional Complex, 40 of the 902 staff and inmates who were tested had the virus, while 40 of the 313 staff and inmates who were tested at the Turney Center Industrial Complex had it, the state said Friday. Northwest has about 2,000 inmates, while Turney has almost 1,500.
After seeing the results from Trousdale, Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s administration last week announced plans to begin testing all inmates and staff across the state prison system. Tennessee had more than 21,700 state inmates in adult facilities as of February. The state has 14 prisons, including four run by CoreCivic.
As of Monday, most prisons had tested fewer than 10 inmates each. The department said staff testing began Monday at the Middle Tennessee facilities and will continue throughout the state this week.
Inmates who become symptomatic but don’t require additional care, such as respiratory support, are treated at prisons or at local hospitals. Staffers self-quarantine and are monitored for symptoms.
Overall, the state said Tuesday it has more than 13,600 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 226 deaths.
Additionally, the Lee administration announced Tuesday that it is working with North Carolina-based Renfro, Corp., a global sock company with a facility in Cleveland, Tenn., to make free washable, reusable cloth face masks for as many Tennesseans as possible. Lee said the deal includes more than 5 million masks, with the first 300,000 masks expected to go out to local health departments this week.
The state is also partnering with Ohio-based Battelle to provide an N95 respirator mask decontamination system to aid health care providers. Lee said the company will place one of its 60 decontamination systems in Jackson, Tenn., where up to 80,000 N95 masks can be sterilized a day.
Meanwhile, Lee said additional businesses that can start reopening this week will include dentist offices on Wednesday and smaller recreational facilities, such as bowling alleys and mini-golf courses, on Friday for 89 of Tennessee’s 95 counties.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in a few weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including life-threatening pneumonia.

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