The number of COVID-19 cases in Wayne County shows a drastic increase this week, after 965 inmates at South Central Correctional Facility in Clifton tested positive for the virus.
According to a statement from the Tennessee Department of Corrections, mass testing was ordered at the prison last week based on observations made by TDOC’s medical director in conjunction with the Tennessee Department of Health after several inmates and staff at the CoreCivic-operated facility began showing symptoms of COVID-19.
Ryan Gustin from CoreCivic issued a statement to Tennessee River Valley News, saying in part, “CoreCivic has received results from last week’s inmate COVID-19 testing at South Central Correctional Facility (SCCF) in Clifton, TN. The testing was conducted Thursday, August 27 and Friday, August 28 at the facility, in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC). The results of this round of mass testing at the facility will help inform additional decisions and the efforts currently underway to cohort and quarantine those inmates who are positive or might have been exposed to the virus.
“The health and safety of the individuals entrusted to our care and our staff is the top priority for CoreCivic. This commitment is shared by our partners at the Tennessee Department of Correction, and we have worked closely together with TDOC and state health officials to respond to this unprecedented situation appropriately, thoroughly and with care for the well-being of those entrusted to us and our communities.”
Results of the mass testing for inmates are as follows:
Total inmates tested: 1410
Total negative results: 277
Total positive results: 965
Pending tests: 168
All of the inmates were reportedly asymptomatic at the time of testing. Prior to mass testing, ten inmates at the facility exhibited symptoms of COVID-19. This is consistent with other correctional systems, which are reporting that 96 percent of inmates who tested positive are asymptomatic.
Mass testing of SCCF staff is currently underway and results will be available once all tests have been confirmed by the lab. Since the onset of the pandemic, 66 employees have tested positive for COVID-19. Of that number, 32 have recovered and have been medically cleared to return to work.
“Consistent with CDC recommendations, face masks have been provided to all staff and individuals in our care at SCCF, since April,” said Gustin. “You may also recall that the CDC did not recommend the use of cloth face coverings until April. Staff are required to wear face masks (unless eating or drinking) and individuals in our care are required to wear a mask when outside of their assigned living areas.”
TDOC says that it is continuing to work with facility leadership to ensure the safety of both staff and inmates through compliance to infection control measures and increased education. The Department will continue to monitor the population and staff. All inmates who test positive for COVID-19 and are asymptomatic receive daily medical monitoring and health assessments. Those who may become symptomatic but don’t require additional care, such as respiratory support, will be treated in place or at local hospitals, depending on their needs. Staff will self-quarantine and are monitored for symptoms and encouraged to contact their healthcare provider.
“Our thoughts are with the inmates and staff at South Central Correctional Facility during this time,” said Wayne County Executive Jim Mangubat. “This rapid spread of the virus will hopefully be contained quickly, and our prayers are with the employees and their families that no one else will become ill.”