Testing to increase after coronavirus outbreak at 201 Poplar

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SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — Officials are monitoring a serious coronavirus outbreak at the jail at 201 Poplar.

Officials said inmates are often in close quarters, that’s why they always knew inmates were extra vulnerable to the coronavirus.

“There were significant efforts put in place before we ever had cases to actually reduce entry to those facilities,” Shelby County Health Department Director Dr. Alisa Haushalter said.

But those efforts didn’t stop it from spreading. Of 266 people tested Friday, 72 percent tested positive: 155 inmates and 37 employees.

Sheriff Floyd Bonner said this is happening even after they let out 17 percent of the jail population recently.

“All detainees that have tested positive, they are in jail on felony charges with the most severe case being first-degree murder,” Sheriff Bonner said.

He said they’ve moved them to a new isolation unit and admitted he and his staff face a big challenge.

“Everyone is struggling with this now, so because of the close proximity all inmates have, it’s very difficult,” Bonner said.

They’re trying to figure out how it got in and spread. So far, they do have an idea.

“A significant number of those individuals tested were asymptomatic,” Haushalter said.

But that leads to the question of how many more people in the jail are positive and don’t know it? And could they be infecting employees, who then go home to families at night?

Dr. Haushalter said they plan to test more in the coming days. 

Sheriff Bonner said they also issued masks to all inmates and employees about two weeks ago.

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