Novel COVID-19, the Coronavirus, has spared no state or nation. In Tennessee, COVID-19 has spread statewide, from West Tennessee through East Tennessee. Thousands of Tennesseans have become infected with the virus, ranging from young children to elderly citizens. It is becoming apparent that a subset of Tennessee citizens is most susceptible to COVID-19 and its debilitating side effects: senior citizens. The Tennessee Department of Health has begun tracking COVID-19 outbreaks in areas where seniors live in close proximity to one another, such as nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and long-term care facilities.
As of April 23, 2020, nearly 400 Tennesseans living at long-term care or nursing home facilities have tested positive for Coronavirus, and 37 have died. Senior citizens are particularly susceptible to COVID-19 due to their age and likelihood to have one or more underlying health conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiac disease, hypertension, and lung disease. With many people working and living in close quarters, the facilities are more likely statistically to experience an outbreak once one individual in the facility contracts the virus.
Recognizing the vulnerability of seniors and higher risk of outbreaks, Tennessee is specifically tracking COVID-19 infections in nursing homes and monitoring the spread. These new measures came in response to more than 80 residents of Gallatin Center for Rehabilitation and Healing testing positive in a single weekend in March 2020. Since then, over 160 residents and staff members there have tested positive, and 19 have passed away due to COVID-19. Dr. Lisa Piercey, the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health, stated the department will release these figures because they have “determined that releasing this data is in the public health interest.”
On April 22, 2020, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee released a Special Report on COVID-19 in Tennessee’s nursing homes and how to best mitigate the risk of outbreaks among nursing home residents and staff. Specifically, Governor Lee recommends these steps:
- Immediately notifying public health officials of a suspected or confirmed case within the facility;
- The facility must also notify residents and their families of suspected or confirmed cases within the facility;
- Ensuring the facility has sufficient Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies;
- Identifying the need for target or widespread testing;
- Determining whether residents who test positive can remain at the facility or require outside hospitalization; and
- Ongoing investigation and contact tracing.
It is the law in Tennessee for a nursing home to report suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases to the Tennessee Department of Health, who will then consult with the facility regarding measures to be taken. When a facility in Memphis, Carriage Court, chose not to disclose a positive case, the Shelby County Health Department did so for them. Once reported, the state will advise the facility on securing protective equipment, sanitization and decontamination measures, and further testing and contact tracing procedures, all designed to promote the safety and well-being of residents and staff. State health officials will continue to monitor the facility and further spread of the virus. State health officials encourage all nursing homes, long-term care facilities, and the like to follow guidelines from the CDC and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
What Can Tennessee Nursing Homes Do to Prevent COVID-19 Spread?
The Tennessee Department of Health asks all Tennesseans to follow CDC guidelines. Steps recommended by the CDC include:
- Establish social distancing protocols
- Clean and disinfect surfaces regularly, especially common areas
- Wear face masks and gloves
- Screen residents, nurses, staff members, and contractors for COVID-19 symptoms
- Isolate residents or staff with symptoms
- Employees sick or experiencing symptoms should stay home
- Stay up to date with CDC and State-level guidance
If you suspect your loved one’s nursing home is not following CDC guidelines and thereby endangering residents, you can visit the Tennessee Department of Health website or call 833-556-2476.
Tennessee Nursing Homes with COVID-19 Cases
To date, COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in the following Tennessee cities:
- Carriage Court Assisted Living Facility
- Christian Care Center of Memphis
- Parkway Health and Rehabilitation Center
- Heritage at Irene Woods
- The King’s Daughters and Sons Home
- Delta Specialty Hospital
- The Village at Germantown
- Grace Healthcare of Cordova
- AHC Cumberland
- Nashville Community Care & Rehabilitation at Bordeaux
- Trevecca Center for Rehabilitation & Healing LLC
- Williamsburg Villas
- AHC Forest Cove
- White House Assisted Living
- Bells Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
- Elmcroft of Lebanon
- Signature Healthcare of Putnam County
- Boulevard Terrace Health and Rehabilitation
- Gallatin Center for Rehabilitation and Healing
- NHC Place Sumner
- NHC Healthcare Franklin
- Fountains of Franklin
- NHC Place at Cool Springs