Tennessee reports 1st death of state inmate in outbreak

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (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 from 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 privately run by CoreCivic. The inmate was taken to the hospital April 25, tested positive there and died Monday, the department said.

The department says the exact cause of death is awaiting the medical examiner’s determination. The department and Tennessee-based CoreCivic both declined to release the inmate’s name.

Officials say six Tennessee inmates who tested positive are hospitalized, including one in serious condition. In recent mass testing, the Trousdale facility saw nearly 1,300 inmates and 50 staffers test positive, mostly without symptoms.

The results followed widespread testing that found 583 of 2,322 inmates tested positive, also largely without symptoms, at Bledsoe County Correctional Complex.

After the state saw about half of Trousdale’s inmates test positive, Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s administration last week announced plans to begin testing all inmates and staff across the state prison system.

CoreCivic spokesman Ryan Gustin said “those inmates who have tested positive for COVID-19 are housed together and those inmates who do not have the virus are housed together.”

As of Monday, most of the state’s 14 prisons had not yet tested at least 10 inmates each. The department said staff testing began Monday at the Middle Tennessee facilities and will continue throughout the state this week.

Tennessee has more than 21,700 state inmates in adult facilities as of February. The state has 14 prisons, including four run by CoreCivic.

There have been 40 positive cases out of 902 staff and inmates tested at Northwest Correctional Complex and 40 positive cases out of 313 staff and inmates tested at Turney Center Industrial Complex, the state said Friday.

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.

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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