May 13: Mass testing revealed 311 cases connected to the prison outbreak


This week the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Tipton County skyrocketed – and now we can confirm there are 311 total cases at the prison in Mason.

That the prison had an outbreak is not new information, but knowing the breakdown between how many employees and inmates tested positive is helpful in understanding how the virus is being transmitted.


Transmission in the community is handled differently, and affects the behaviors of the public differently, than transmission amongst the incarcerated population.

CoreCivic confirmed test results as of Tuesday showed 232 people from the facility – 228 inmates and four employees – had tested positive of the 490 tests completed. Four of those are waiting to be retested.

These numbers are in addition to the 79 previously diagnosed inmates, which brings the total to 311 confirmed cases.

“Test results are slowly being returned from the lab in small batches and are being reported to the local health department in real time by facility leadership,” said Amanda Gilchrist, CoreCivic’s director of public affairs, who emphasized these numbers did not represent the full results from mass testing at the prison.”

The inmates and employees, per the health department and CoreCivic, were asymptomatic at the time of testing.

What happens when an inmate or employee tests positive?

According to Gilchrist, after inmates are tested they are quarantined with other inmates with the same test result – positive inmates with other positive inmates and negative inmates with other negative inmates.

“Staff members are self-isolating at home and are in regular communication with their healthcare providers,” she said.

How many cases are in the public?

Apart from the prison outbreak, there are reportedly 94 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Tipton County.

It is not known how many of those cases are active, but the health department’s data reported Wednesday afternoon showed 86 recoveries of the county’s total confirmed cases.

The U.S. Marshals, whose inmates are housed in Mason, reported 46 recoveries on May 4 when there were 79 cases there.

How sick are our friends and neighbors with COVID-19?

Other than general information about positive and negative test results, recoveries and deaths, the Tennessee Department of Health releases no information about patients. Though it is often requested by the media and the general public, TDH has not released cases by zipcode, hospitalizations by county or any information about the severity of the symptoms patients are experiencing.

Echo Day
Author: Echo Day

Echo Day is an award-winning journalist, photographer and designer. She is currently The Leader's managing editor.