Coronavirus live blog, May 1: Private prison turns up more than 1,200 cases

By , Daily Memphian Updated: May 08, 2020 8:35 AM CT | Published: May 01, 2020 10:10 AM CT

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You can protect yourself and help prevent the spread of coronavirus by:

  • Wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds, with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a disposable tissue or flexed elbow when you cough or sneeze
  • Avoid close contact (within six feet) with people
  • Stay home and self-isolate from others in the household if you feel unwell
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth if your hands are not clean

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Rhodes dispersing CARES funding to students

4:34 PM CT, May 1

Memphis’ Rhodes College received about $603,000 in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to directly support students with significant financial challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In total, 586 students will receive automatic distributions; no application is required.

The college announced that it would prioritize students with greatest demonstrated need. Each recipient must have a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on file with Rhodes’ financial aid office and have received financial aid during spring 2020.

Rhodes is designating the remaining CARES Act funding for students who have unexpected expenses or hardship because of the pandemic. Students can submit a request for emergency financial aid funds. 

Students who receive for the automatic distributions can also apply for the additional emergency financial aid. 

In addition to the CARES Act funding, Rhodes has also established an Emergency Assistance Fund for those who have had a change in financial circumstances due to the pandemic. 


State releases guidelines for houses of worship

3:03 PM CT, May 1

The Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives released guidance for faith communities on gathering together in houses of worship.

“Tennessee’s faith leaders have been incredibly innovative in finding alternative ways to worship that incorporate social distancing so they can continue to provide spiritual guidance, fellowship, and service to their neighbors during these challenging times,” said Tennessee Governor Bill Lee. “Religious liberty is important and must be protected, and that’s why the State has always deemed religious services as essential gatherings throughout this pandemic. As we look to reopen our economy in a safe fashion, the decision on in-person gatherings will be up to each individual faith community. We’re confident in their ability to determine the proper time and how to incorporate these guidelines to worship in a way that protects the health of their congregation.”

The full guidelines include:

  • A phased approach to resuming in-person gatherings is recommended. Vulnerable populations (everyone 65 years and older, people with disabilities, people with serious respiratory or cardiovascular conditions, people who are immunocompromised, and others) and children’s activities/nursery programs should not gather in person until a later time.
  • Consider solutions to minimize close personal contact that may be part of your services, such as handshakes or sharing food and drink.
  • As the phased approach begins, limit the size of attendance in your sanctuary and other confined spaces to create seating arrangements that provide at least 6-foot distancing between families. It is recommended not to exceed 50% of maximum capacity of the room and should enable full compliance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations for social distancing and hygiene. 
  • Wear face coverings.
  • Encourage members of the community to stay at home if they are symptomatic, have a fever, have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive, or have traveled internationally or to a domestic hot spot in the past two weeks. 
  • If a member of the congregation has tested positive for COVID-19, consult CDC guidelines and local health department recommendations to determine whether in-person gatherings should cease immediately, the building should close for additional cleaning, or other protocol changes are required.


Increase in statewide cases caused by private prison outbreak

3:13 PM CT, May 1

A spike in COVID-19 cases in Tennessee is a result of the mass testing completed at Trousdale Turner Center, Gov. Bill Lee said Friday. Tennessee reported nearly 1,200 new cases on Friday, pushing it to 11,891 cases.

Two inmates have been hospitalized, but 98% of the cases are asymptomatic.

The Unified Command announced Friday it will test all inmates at state prisons.

Positive and negative inmates are separated, and those with COVID-19 receive treatment daily, the governor said.

Trousdale Turner is run by privately-held CoreCivic, which has come under fire from lawmakers for poor operations.

The state’s overall figure is a 10.8% increase, but without the inmate figures, the state’s general population saw an increase of only 2.4%, according to Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey.

The nearly 260 cases reported in the general population does not cause “concern,” but the prison count does raise a red flag, Piercey said.

Piercey predicted numbers will go up because the state plans to actively seek out positive cases of COVID-19 by encouraging more widespread testing.

The state’s Department of Military has been working with the Department of Correction for weeks and will split into four teams to test large numbers of prison inmates, according to Maj. Gen. Jeff Holmes.

“We feel very confident we can execute this mission,” Holmes said.

Piercey says it’s a real “head scratcher” why the inmate population has such a high percentage of asymptomatic positive cases.

Gov. Lee contended the state has a “very defined strategy that is consistent with what departments of correction are doing across the country.”

The state had a tiered system for prison testing but as a result of high rates at Bledsoe and Trousdale Turner, it opted to test the entire prison population, according to Lee.

Department of Correction Commissioner Tony Parker pointed out Trousdale Turner is following the same protocol for testing as other state prisons, even though it is run by CoreCivic.

A state audit showed Trousdale Turner was lacking the necessary to staffing to run the prison properly. But Parker said he has no evidence to show short staffing caused the high number of positive COVID cases at the prison.

The state has TDOC personnel and contract monitors at every CoreCivic prison, and the department’s medical director will be following the testing process at the state’s prisons.

“We will have state staff involved in that process,” Parker said. “My communications with CoreCivic has been very positive as far as them cooperating 100%.”


U of M to host free drive-thru testing site

3:29 PM CT, May 1

The University of Memphis will host a free drive-thru coronavirus testing site 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, May 5 through Thursday, May 7.

The U of M is partnering with Kroger Health and Cherokee Health Systems for the screening, which is completed via a self-administered nasal swab.

The testing will take place in the Central Avenue parking lot, next to the Holiday Inn. Those eligible for this screening include health care workers, symptomatic people and asymptomatic people, based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, local and state recommendations.

Those interested can schedule a test at, then choose the U of M location and appointment time and receive pre-appointment paperwork. 

Once arriving for a test, the person should have a photo ID ready and leave the vehicle windows rolled up for check-in until prompted.

Test results are expected to be returned within 48 hours. Kroger Health plans to administer about 250 tests per day at the site. 


COVID-19 in Tennessee

2:55 PM CT, May 1


Watch Gov. Bill Lee’s press briefing live

2:54 PM CT, May 1

Gov. Bill Lee’s daily coronavirus press briefing is scheduled for 3 p.m.

Watch below:


The state and local COVID-19 curves, as of May 1

7:46 AM CT, May 1



Local and state coronavirus cases, tests and recoveries, as of May 1

9:07 AM CT, May 1



Private prison turns up more than 1,200 COVID-19 cases

2:10 PM CT, May 1

Gov. Bill Lee’s Unified Command Group announced Friday a mass COVID-19 testing initiative will begin next week for all Tennessee Department of Correction staff and the inmates after testing at Trousdale Turner found more than 1,200 positive cases.

“Knowing the extent of the virus’ spread within our correctional facilities is critical as incarcerated individuals remain one of the most vulnerable populations during this pandemic,” said Lee. “Thanks to our increased capacity, we’ll test all inmates and staff statewide in order to take appropriate actions to safeguard the health of these vulnerable individuals.”

On Friday, TDOC confirmed more than 1,246 COVID-19 positive cases, out of 2,450 total tests, among staff and inmates at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center in Trousdale County, run by private company CoreCivic, following a targeted testing event at the facility that began on April 28. The state previously confirmed more than 500 cases at Bledsoe County prison.

“We’ve been in close coordination with TDOC as it began targeted COVID-19 testing of inmates and staff in early April,” said UCG Director Stuart McWhorter. “Given the increases in positive cases at the Bledsoe County and Trousdale Turner correctional facilities, despite the vast majority being asymptomatic, we are going to take the next steps in partnership with TDOC, Tennessee Department of Health, and Tennessee National Guard to support a broader testing strategy to promote the health and safety of staff and inmates. We will also coordinate plans with our local jails to assist them in safeguarding the health of their populations in the coming days.”

TDOC and TDH analysis of the test results confirm 98 percent of those who tested positive are asymptomatic.

TDOC is now working with its healthcare services provider and contract prison provider, Centurion Managed Care and CoreCivic, to begin COVID-19 testing next week of all staff and inmates at 10 other TDOC correctional facilities in the state.

While CoreCivic will be responsible for testing all inmates and staff in its managed facilities, UCG will coordinate with the Tennessee National Guard to augment testing capacity for staff at state-run facilities, where Centurion will be testing only inmates.

“The Department of Correction is taking a proactive approach to ensure all staff and the entire inmate population is tested for COVID-19,” said TDOC Commissioner Tony Parker. “Our sixth round of mass testing will begin early next week with the remaining 10 facilities conducting testing. With the support and leadership of Gov. Lee, Tennessee is leading the nation in our approach to widespread mass testing.”

“The Department of Military has been working closely with TDOC for weeks on preparedness for various courses of action as situations develop,” said Tennessee’s Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Jeff Holmes. “This plan is entering an implementation phase and we are prepared to support this mission.”


Tennessee adds 1,156 cases, 5 deaths

2:25 PM CT, May 1

Tennessee has 1,156 more confirmed coronavirus cases and five more deaths attributed to the disease, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.

That is the largest single-day spike in confirmed cases so far in the pandemic.

Gov. Bill Lee’s United Command Group announced that testing Friday at Trousdale Turner in Trousdale County found more than 1,200 positive cases out of 2,450 total tests.

The Department of Health has the number of confirmed cases in Trousdale County at 1,020 currently.

Statewide, there have been 11,891 confirmed cases, 204 deaths, 186,132 tests administered and 5,546 people who are considered recovered from the disease officially.

The Department of Health reported 2,599 confirmed cases in Shelby County up from the 2,556 the Shelby County Health Department reported earlier in the day.

Nashville’s Metro Public Health Department reported 2,832 cases for Davidson County and 27 deaths. 

Reporter Sam Stockard contributed to this article. 


Mississippi adds 397 cases, 20 deaths

1:58 PM CT, May 1

Mississippi has 397 more confirmed coronavirus cases and 20 more deaths resulting from the disease, according to the Mississippi State Department of Health.

Statewide there have been 7,212 confirmed cases and 281 deaths. 

For DeSoto County, MSDH reports 293 confirmed cases, four deaths, two long-term care facility cases and one death stemming from a long-term care facility outbreak.

For Marshall County, MSDH reports 44 confirmed cases and two deaths.

More than 71,000 people -- 71,548 -- have been tested. 


Strickland: Gov. Lee has ‘preempted’ rules for places of worship

12:16 PM CT, May 1

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland began the COVID-19 Joint Task Force briefing by saying that the revised Safer at Home order will take effect Monday, May 4.

“This is not back to business as normal,” he said before warning that terms of the reopening could be rolled back if social distancing isn’t maintained by people and businesses.

Strickland said Gov. Bill Lee has “preempted” rules for places of worship and that they should follow state rules. He expects Lee will supplement and make more specific those rules this afternoon. Strickland said he is working with faith leaders on best practices.

He said faith leaders should continue to stream services as well as offering live services too, under the new guidelines.

Strickland said the governor’s orders have only affected 89 counties, not including Shelby. All he has done is preempted us on places of worship and elective surgeries, Strickland said.

Dr. Jon McCullers of University of Tennessee Health Science Center said the last four to six weeks of measures has shown trends. The rate of new cases daily is key indicator across the country on response and a week after safer at home, the stabilization of the rate started happening with allowances for variables like more testing, weather. The average has been 65 to 70 new cases a day.

The second trend is hospitalization including intensive care units and ventilators. The early weeks of April showed good number of cases in hospital. Those numbers have dropped in recent weeks and reflect the safer at home order. Now it’s steady in hospital with variables, but no rapid increase or decline. McCullers called trends “comforting” that safer at home has slowed or stopped transmission.

McCullers said hospital capacity is good now, but that it’s important to follow capacity as we open up elective procedures and monitor if we still have room for more COVID patients if there is a surge.

On testing, he now feels “fairly comfortable” with where testing is now.

“We’re not done expanding our testing,” he said.

Public health response is around the ability to do contact tracing and case work and isolation and monitoring.

The Shelby County Health Department said it’s comfortable for now with that.

"We have a stability in the situation with the pandemic," McCullers said.

So they will allow more social contact to see if pandemic locally stays the same.

"We're going into a bit of an experiment I would say," McCullers said, but adds he feels comfortable.

Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter said there are 153 new cases since Wednesday. But she said the rate of growth of cases continues to drop.

Fifty-two percent of confirmed cases have recovered. They have tested almost 30,000, a “significant number” with 8.7% positivity which is going down. Ninety percent of tests have been negative.

On moving forward, Haushalter said they will continue to support testing and expanding testing. They will add testing to clinics in upcoming months and continue cluster management and contact tracing.

New testing sites next week are in Bartlett in Freeman Park, the Agricenter, a Kroger site at the University of Memphis, and Christ Community Health Services in Orange Mound and on Broad Avenue.

Haushalter said we could see a spike in cases next week with back to work, but also with testing including asymptomatic people. They monitor several times a day and look at clusters. If they see a resurgence that is exponential growth that will be reason to step back and consult.

“It’s not one single number, it’s a combination of things,” she said. McCullers dittoes.

He said he hopes there won’t be a spike, but with increased social interaction, perhaps we will see a higher rate of daily cases, but not a spike.

One area McCullers is concerned about is places of worship.

On word of openings of hair and nail shops on Wednesday: Strickland said he can’t speak for suburbs but he said back to business plans were in Phase 2 and so did the state. The state amended its plan and said they are opening May 6.

That has raised level of interest in Shelby County, Strickland said. Strickland said Memphis is going with doctors advice and it remains in Phase 2 and he will consult with doctors further.

So we could have some further word on close contact businesses, nails and hair, before Wednesday. Strickland is saying much of this is a result of changes in the state’s plan.

Haushalter said the back to business plan was a local collaboration. It was drafted before executive orders by governor. For now, they are trying to make sure there is alignment between the local plan and executive orders from governor. She said “at the moment please bear with all of us.”

On hair and nails, Strickland said all he knows is there is some discussion among the mayors. “As we stand here, I’m not sure any city has done that” on reopening hair and nails.

Haushalter said the health directive in effect may be rewritten or give way to a back to work plan. She said hair and nail salons are now not in directive to open on Wednesday, as some suburban towns and cities plan for Wednesday.

Haushalter said they are “still under discussion” about hair and nail salons. They are trying to get consensus across the county. The Health Department is reviewing Lee’s executive order to rewrite the health directive. She said each mayor can make decisions that may be more stringent or more flexible. She said the May 6 opening is a few days away and discussions continue.

On contact tracing, Haushalter said a CARES Act funding proposal is coming on more money for COVID contact tracing.

“More to come on that,” she said and that she has pitched more funding to both mayors -- Strickland and (Shelby County Mayor Lee) Harris.

McCullers says he won’t be going out to eat on opening day. He will wait until Tuesday.

“The ability to go out in public doesn’t mean you have to go out in public,” he said.

In general, if you are worried about contracting the virus continue to do what you have been doing, he advised.





Shelby County reports 72 new cases, 1,216 more tests

10:08 AM CT, May 1

Shelby County has 2,556 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to the Shelby County Health Department’s latest data, an increase of 72 cases from Thursday.

Deaths associated with the virus are now at 50, as of Friday, which is an increase of the 47 reported Thursday. 

A total of 1,332 people have recovered from the disease in Shelby County, according to the county.

There have been 29,340 total tests taken in Shelby County with a 8.7% positivity rate. The county reported an additional 1,216 new tests from the previous day.

In Tennessee, there are 10,735 cases with 199 deaths as of Thursday, April 30, according to the state’s department of health.

There have been 177,626 total tests statewide, with a positivity rate of 6%.


Watch today’s COVID Joint Task Force briefing

12:01 PM CT, May 1

Today’s COVID Joint Task Force briefing, scheduled for noon, will be led by Shelby County Health Department Director Dr. Alisa Haushalter and Dr. Jon McCullers with UTHSC.

Watch below:


City courts, criminal courts reset cases

9:25 AM CT, May 1

Memphis City Courts, Shelby County General Sessions Criminal Courts and Shelby County Criminal Courts have reset cases again because of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

 The reset court cases apply to defendants who are currently not in custody.

The state Supreme Court issued another order last week stating that most-in person court proceedings were suspended because of COVID-19. The suspension applies to appellate, trial general sessions, juvenile and city courts. The suspension will last until May 31.

Judges in Memphis City Court have said anyone with traffic tickets who have court dates in May should call the clerk’s office (901) 636-3400, (901) 636-3450 or at (901) 636-3499.

Court officials said tickets may be dismissed, resolved through a fine or rescheduled for a trial date to avoid multiple appearances.

Anyone with traffic tickets and slated to appear in court in June and July, they are asked to contact the clerk’s office after May 15 to handle the ticket without coming to court.

If you have a case in Criminal Court divisions 1-10 or in General Sessions Division 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 or Drug Court the cases have been reset for the week of June 1 through June 15.

For questions call General Sessions Criminal Court clerk’s office at (901) 222-3500. For cases in Criminal Court call the clerk’s office at (901) 222-3200 or go to for more information on reset court dates.



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