Tennessee’s private prisons lag in coronavirus reporting

Published 11:41 am Thursday, May 14, 2020

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Associated Press
NASHVILLE (AP) — Two weeks after a large number of coronavirus cases at a privately run Tennessee prison prompted Gov. Bill Lee to announce that all inmates would be tested, two of the state’s other three privately run prisons are still reporting results for only a handful of inmates.
Coronavirus testing results posted to the Tennessee Department of Correction website show 2,500 inmates at the state’s 14 prisons as either positive for the coronavirus or recovered. More than half of those are at the CoreCivic-run Trousdale Turner Correctional Center. The company reported two weeks ago that 1,299 prisoners and 50 staff there had tested positive. The numbers were high enough to give Trousdale County the highest per capita rate of cases in the U.S.
They also prompted Lee to call for universal testing of inmates. TDOC updated those numbers on Tuesday. They show the 10 state-run prisons with 519 tests still pending out of more than 13,000 inmates tested. Of the CoreCivic run prisons, only Trousdale and the Hardeman County Correctional Facility are reporting results for the vast majority of their inmates.
The Whiteville Correctional Facility lists 1,632 results still pending, and the South Central Correctional Facility is reporting only four inmates tested total, although officials said they completed testing of all inmates on Tuesday but have not yet updated the numbers.
Outside of Trousdale, the prison that has had the highest rate of coronavirus infections is the state-run Bledsoe County Correctional Complex, where 585 inmates were listed as recovered as of Tuesday, two were still listed as positive and one had died after contracting the virus. Two Trousdale inmates also died. TDOC has said it is waiting for the medical examiner to declare the causes of death.
The state-run Northwest Correctional Complex was also reporting a significant number of cases, with 288 inmates listed as positive, 45 listed as recovered and 356 results still pending — the most of any of the state-run prisons. CoreCivic-run Hardeman was reporting 151 inmates positive for the coronavirus with 23 results pending.
Asked why results for two of the CoreCivic run prisons were lagging behind those for the state-run prisons, CoreCivic spokesperson Amanda Gilchrist said in an email that they are waiting for the results of the tests to come in.
“As we receive small batches of results, the inmate numbers are reported to TDOC and loaded to their website in real time,” she wrote. “The testing plan was reviewed and approved by TDOC.”
Tennessee had reported 273 deaths in the state from COVID-19 as of Wednesday.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and be life-threatening.

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