By Jill Penley
Results from the latest round of targeted testing for COVID-19 at state correctional facilities show 80 percent of all inmates received negative test results. Since the beginning of the month, 2,688 inmates at 13 facilities have been tested for COVID-19. Negative results were returned for 1,620 inmates, while 388 tested positive. Another 667 test results are pending. ( as of the time of writing this article).
Two TDOC facilities, including Morgan County Correctional Complex and Turney Center Industrial Complex, had zero positive cases during the latest round of testing. Three other facilities had less than three cases. The majority of the positive cases were asymptomatic and detected at five facilities: Bledsoe County Correctional Complex, DeBerry Special Needs Facility, Debra Johnson Rehabilitation Center, Mark Luttrell Transition Center, Morgan County Correctional Complex, Northwest Correctional Complex, Riverbend Maximum Security Institution, Turney Center Industrial Complex, Women’s Therapeutic Residential Center, West Tennessee State Penitentiary and Northeast Correctional Complex. According to a TDOC spokesperson, there are 73 active cases of COVID-19 among inmates inside the Northeast Correctional Complex in Mountain City as of Monday, September 7.
According to NECX, all inmates who tested positive are isolated per established protocols. The Department of Correction launched the latest round of targeted testing in conjunction with the Department of Health, Department of Military, Core Civic, and Centurion, out of an abundance of caution and following the recent positive test results at the South Central Correctional Facility (SCCF).
The targeted unit-based testing was based on the population of inmates who, through contract tracing, were identified as having come into contact with another person who tested positive. The unit-based testing also included inmates who may have been outside the facility for a work assignment or a medical appointment and inmates who live in a unit where a staff member who has recently tested positive worked.
“Since becoming one of the first agencies in the country to conduct mass testing, the TDOC has proactively tested inmates during intake, after medical appointments, prior to leaving TDOC custody and as indicated by contact tracing,” Commissioner Tony Parker said.
The TDOC has maintained a series of steps to prevent the spread of the virus, including non-invasive screenings, frequent cleaning and disinfection of high touch areas, and mandatory masks for staff and inmates. The department has been following established protocols for isolation of positive cases and quarantine for suspected cases. All inmates who test positive and are asymptomatic receive daily medical monitoring and health assessments. Those who may become symptomatic but don’t require additional care are treated in place or at a local hospital, depending on their needs. Information regarding COVID-19 test results is available at www.tn.gov/correction.