By TRAVIS LOLLER and KIMBERLEE KRUESI Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A fourth Tennessee prison inmate has died after contracting the coronavirus, according to the Tennessee Department of Correction.
The 71-year-old man was hospitalized on April 29 and died on Thursday at around 11 p.m., department spokeswoman Dorinda Carter wrote in an email.
The man, whom the department is not identifying by name, is the third inmate to die after contracting the virus at the privately run Trousdale Turner Correctional Center. One inmate who contracted the virus at the state-run Bledsoe County Correctional Complex has also died. The Correction Department has said all the men had underlying medical conditions, and it is asking the medical examiner to determine the causes of death in each case.
The two prisons have reported high rates of infection. Two weeks ago, Trousdale reported 1,299 inmates infected by the virus plus two who were hospitalized. Fifty staff also tested positive. The numbers were high enough to give Trousdale County the highest per capita rate of cases in the U.S., according to an Associated Press analysis. On Friday, the prison was reporting that 229 of those inmates had recovered.
At Bledsoe, 585 inmates were reported as recovered on Friday with only two still listed as positive.
Meanwhile, election officials in Davidson County, which encompasses Nashville, announced Friday that they were preparing for an "unprecedented" August primary election.
Earlier this month, the secretary of state's office warned its local counterparts to prepare as though all 1.4 million registered voters who are at least 60 will vote by mail in the August primary election due to the coronavirus pandemic.
On Friday, Elections Administrator Jeff Roberts said Davidson County is already seeing a large demand for absentee ballots, requiring the election commission to hire extra staffers to keep up with the demand.
"For normal August elections we would not be having any poll officials to help at this early date, this is pretty much unprecedented," Roberts said.
The county recently received about $672,000 in federal funding to help cover the increase in salaries, extra supplies and postage.
Roberts said the county has bought 75,000 pens for in-person voting during the August primary and is now planning how to clean and store them so they can be reused for the general election. Roberts says they anticipate placing each pen in a container, after just one use by a voter, and not reopening the container until November.
In other virus-related news, the Tennessee Valley Authority announced Thursday that it would reopen six campgrounds and 17 recreation areas by the end of the day Friday. Restrooms, large-group pavilions and playgrounds will remain closed in the recreation areas, and all TVA visitor centers remain closed.
The federal utility is also resuming some recreational releases on the Ocoee River for whitewater rafting and kayaking.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and be life-threatening.