Area nursing homes saw biggest jump in new COVID cases since early September last week

Local Coronavirus Coverage

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Led by a spike at an NHC nursing home, new resident COVID-19 cases jumped last week by their highest one-week percentage since the week ending Sept. 4.

Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) data also show the steepest rise in staff cases since the week ending Sept. 11.

The increase comes as the overall region continues grappling with a steep increase in community spread that began in late September. Public health officials, hospital officials and other experts have repeatedly told News Channel 11 that community spread makes it very difficult for nursing homes and other long term care facilities to keep COVID-19 out.

The seven-county region saw a total of 137 new resident cases between Oct. 16 and Oct. 23, according to TDH. The previous five weeks combined, the total was 138.

However, as News Channel 11 fact-checked a reported 42-case jump at NHC’s Kingsport facility, we discovered a discrepancy between the facility website — which showed eight total resident cases — and TDH, which reported 46.

NHC spokesperson Casey Reese confirmed that the numbers on the website were correct. The TDH website also reported 46 resident cases at Holston Manor in Kingsport, leaving open the likelihood of data input error by TDH.

Even a 13.95 percent increase from the week, considering NHC’s numbers, was the highest by far since COVID was raging through area long term care facilities in late August and early September.

New case numbers jumped by 29.7 percent the week ending Aug. 28 and 23.6 percent the week ending Sept. 4.

NHC in Johnson City, which had seen just 10 new resident cases and no new deaths since Aug. 28, reported 41 new resident cases Friday along with four new deaths. That brought the total resident cases since the outbreak began in August to 74, with seven total deaths.

Staff cases at the facility doubled last week, from 22 to 44. Most of the cases that had been reported prior to last Friday had resulted in recoveries, along with the several reported deaths.

Wednesday, the facility’s website reported a total of 31 in-house patients with active COVID cases, and another six who had been admitted to the facility after having tested positive.

NHC Johnson City’s website now reports a total of 16 deaths associated with the facility’s ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

The site said 40 patients have recovered, five have been transferred to the hospital, and 16 have now died from COVID with some tie to the facility.

Of the 52 employees who’ve tested positive, 34 have recovered.

One Southwest Virginia facility has continued seeing rising numbers over the past week.

Lee Health and Rehab in Pennington Gap reported 73 positive staff and resident cases via the Virginia Department of Health website last Wednesday. (VDH does not break down totals between residents and staff, while TDH does.)

As of Wednesday, that figure had risen to 104 total cases. Like the NHC facilities, Lee had gone many weeks without a new case after seeing 13 cases in July. That changed a few weeks ago and its numbers have been rising steadily since.

Lee’s is the fourth-largest active outbreak in Virginia. The largest is also in the region, at Valley Health Care in Chilhowie — 173 total cases — but a new case hasn’t been reported there for more than a week.

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