COVID toll continues increasing in long term care facilities

Local Coronavirus Coverage

11 new deaths, 99 new resident cases in past week

(WJHL) – Northeast Tennessee long term care facilities reported a second straight week of right around 100 new cases, and 11 more residents died of the disease.

The data are from an update posted each Friday on the Tennessee Department of Health website. A total of 518 residents at 17 facilities have now contracted the virus, along with 352 staff, while the death toll has reached 59.

While cases among residents account for less than 8 percent of the region’s total cases, those 59 deaths from long term care-related cases represent more than 60 percent of the region’s 97 total reported fatalities.

Three facilities saw multiple deaths last week. Hillview Nursing Home in Elizabethton and Signature Health Care in Greeneville each had three deaths while The Waters of Johnson City had two.

Signature became the third regional nursing home with at least 10 deaths and has now had 11. It has by far the most resident cases, at 97, and staff cases (61).

Only seven other facilities in the state have reported more than 10 deaths since TDH began a new reporting system in mid-July.

The percentage growth of new infections barely slackened this week. After rising 30 percent from Aug. 21-28, it was up 24 percent this week.

Facilities seeing the largest bumps in new cases included:

  • Lifecare of Gray — up from one case to 27;
  • Lifecare of Greeneville — up from 27 cases to 46;
  • Lakebridge (Johnson City) — up from 14 to 32;
  • Greystone (Blountville) — up from 27 to 41.

TDH’s data includes recovered resident cases, making it easy to see which facilities remain in the midst of case clusters. The number of active cases — total positives minus recoveries and deaths — has increased from 127 to to 171 to 192 over the past two weeks.

Facilities with the most active resident cases include:

  • Lifecare of Greeneville (46)
  • Signature of Greeneville (46)
  • Greystone (28)
  • Waters of Johnson City (27)
  • Lifecare of Gray (26)
  • Lakebridge (24)

Region disproportionately affected

Northeast Tennessee went largely unscathed when community spread sent COVID-19 raging through nursing homes in middle and west Tennessee this spring. Recent weeks have seen a reversal of that trend.

The roughly half million people living in the seven northeast counties of News Channel 11’s viewing area are just 7.4 percent of Tennessee’s total population. But since July 17’s long term care report, the region accounts for 13.9 percent of resident deaths and 18.7 percent of total cases.

The 352 positive staff members is 13.2 percent of the total statewide, and Northeast Tennessee’s 192 active cases is 22.6 percent of the state total.

More deaths coming if trends hold

With 59 deaths so far and 267 resident recoveries, the ratio of deaths to total resolved cases is 18 percent (59 divided by 326). It was 17 percent two weeks ago and 19 percent last week, meaning it is holding at a steady rate.

If the trend holds on the low end of that narrow range, at least 32 of the residents who have contracted COVID and whose cases aren’t yet resolved will die.

Last week, East Tennessee State University professor and former nursing home administrator Ryan Youngblood said the situation calls for a community response that includes all individuals.

“Even if you’re the person who thinks, ‘this will never affect me, it will never affect my family,’ think about someone else’s grandmother, think about someone else’s mother who’s having to deal with this or may have to deal with this,” Youngblood said.

“Let’s avoid all the selfishness that’s involved with that and think about, this is a time for our society really to pull together.”

The data from TDH include total census, number of residents with positive tests, number of residents who’ve died, number of residents who have recovered, and number of staff with positive tests.

A facility gets on the list if it’s had two or more confirmed cases among residents and/or staff members within two incubation periods (28 days).

Facilities remain on the list until they have gone at least 28 days without a new positive case on site or linked to their clusters.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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