KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A mass COVID-19 testing initiative is happening for all Tennessee Department of Corrections staff and inmates next week.

That initiative spear headed by Governor Bill Lee’s Unified Command Group.

TDOC commissioner, Tony Parker, spoke with WATE 6 On Your Side on the phone about this initiative.

Parker says he began to see a pattern when they began testing inmates and staff at the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex

“Well, Bledsoe, we knew we had some cases there that seemed to be showing a pattern. And as we did the initial testing there, what I would call the mass testing at the unit level, we saw about a thirty-six percent positive rate come back, said Parker. “And based on that and my communications with the governor and with the Covid unified command team, the decision was made to test the entire facility including the staff.”

Some viewers have asked: “What is the Department of Corrections doing when an inmate tests positive for the Coronavirus?”

We also took that question to Commissioner Parker.

 “We separate those inmates in isolation and quarantine status. I’m proud to say that out of all the positive tests we have in the entire TDOC system today the last count I had was we had like five inmates in the hospital. And only a couple of them in serious condition,” said Parker.

TDOC has delivered more than 93,000 masks for staff, inmates, county jails and health care workers. COVID-19 disinfection and safety measures are ongoing at all TDOC facilities and TDOC is practicing recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and TDH.