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State health officials are transitioning their COVID-19 testing strategy to focus on vulnerable populations through high-yield mass testing initiatives lasting the duration of this month.

The state has already begun mass testing at correctional facilities and long-term care sites but announced Thursday it will begin working with urban counties to organize accessible testing events for low-income, high-density residential communities and veterans homes. 

“That is a bit different than what we did at the beginning [...] We're looking more at specific areas, and not only geographic areas, but population areas, such as prison, and long-term care facilities and minority populations and other different specific populations that might have a higher risk or be more vulnerable, so we can make sure and target our efforts where they are most needed,” Commissioner Lisa Piercey said in a press briefing Thursday afternoon. 

Testing of all Department of Corrections staff and inmates will be complete by Friday, Piercey said, and more than 12,000 inmates have been tested so far.

Last week, the state announced a mass outbreak at Trousdale Turner Correctional Center — deemed one the largest clusters in the country by the New York Times  — where 1,300 inmates were infected and at least one has died.

Piercey warned the new testing strategy would cause fluctuations in the state's daily reports of case increases this month, as officials presume they'll find higher infection rates among these populations.

The state received more than $9.3 million in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday to increase testing throughout the state, including more than $1.4 million allocated to various health departments and facilities in Nashville.

This post originally appeared in our sister publication, the Nashville Post

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