State gives update on prison inmate testing amid criticism

Trousdale Turner Correctional Center
Posted at 9:07 PM, May 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-07 23:59:27-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — While Governor Bill Lee updated Tennesseans about the massive prison inmate COVID-19 testing now taking place, one community advocate says the testing has come too late.

"I’ve been devastated about it and angry about it," said community activist Clemmie Greenlee. "When it first broke out back in March when people really started to talk about it, after the tornado, everybody should have been tested, the nursing homes, the shelters, the prisons."

The state had limited testing capabilities early on. It wasn’t until a massive COVID-19 outbreak of more than a thousand inmates was reported at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, that the full inmate testing was announced.

"We are almost finished with that, we have gotten about 12,000 inmates done," said Dr. Lisa Piercey at Thursday's Governor's COVID-19 press briefing. "I believe there are still three facilities that have to complete their testing, but that should be done by the end of the weekend or the very first of next week."

Greenlee says of particular concern, are the minority communities that doctors say are more susceptible to complications from COVID-19.

"If you name everything from diabetes, high blood pressure, asthmatic, the majority of black people have got that anyway," Greenlee said.

While the state looks for data as the inmate results come back, Greenlee says she wants to know why it took an outbreak for this kind of testing to happen.

READ MORE: Analysis finds CDC report does not back up Tenn. Health Commissioner’s claim about COVID-19 transmission inside prisons


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What is COVID-19 (a.k.a. the new coronavirus?)

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. Examples include the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. COVID-19 stands for "Coronavirus disease 2019," which is when this strain of the coronavirus was discovered.

What are the symptoms?

The CDC says patients confirmed to have the 2019-nCoV reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Or at least two of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

At this time, the CDC believes symptoms could appear as soon as two days after exposure, or as long as 14 days.


The CDC is recommending "common sense" measures such as:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.