Gov. Bill Lee: May COVID-19 testing to focus on 4 vulnerable groups

May 8, 2020

Gov. Bill Lee
Credit tn.gov

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Mike Osborne) --  Gov. Bill Lee said this week that Tennessee’s most vulnerable residents will be his focus for coronavirus testing during the month of May.

During a press briefing Thursday, Lee told reporters he’s directed health officials to target four groups for mass assessment.

Gov. Lee says by the end of the end of next week the state will have tested all 27,000 plus inmates in state prisons. Testing at just one of Tennessee’s 14 state prisons in late April revealed half of the facility’s 2400 inmates were virus positive, even though the overwhelming majority were symptom free.

The governor is also promising that some 70 thousand nursing home residents statewide will be screened for coronavirus by the end of the month. Nursing homes and long-term care facilities have proven especially vulnerable to the virus. About one-fourth of all COVID-19 related deaths in Tennessee have occurred among nursing home residents.

In addition, Lee says minority populations will get special attention, along with the residents of low-income urban communities.

Critics have roundly criticized Gov. Lee and state Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey for not giving vulnerable groups more attention early on in the health crisis.

Goodletsville Democratic State Senator Brenda Gilmore wrote this week “It’s a serious concern to see our prison facilities seemingly unprepared for the coronavirus, at this unprecedented level, when we’ve known for months the heightened threat these conditions present to prison guards and inmates.”