There have been 173 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 24 deaths reported among five long-term care facilities in Sumner County, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.
Of those, the majority have come from the Gallatin Center for Rehabilitation and Healing which has reported 162 cases and 23 deaths – the most of any single facility in the state – following an outbreak among residents and staff there in late March.
NHC Place Sumner, also in Gallatin, has had four cases and one death, according to a weekly report released by the state health department Friday afternoon. There have also been three cases at Signature Healthcare of Portland Rehab and Wellness Center, along with two cases at both Park Place Retirement Community in Hendersonville and The Waters of Gallatin.
Statewide, there have been 815 total confirmed cases of the virus among residents at staff and 87 fatalities reported at 41 long-term care facilitates in 14 counties.
“We know that COVID-19 is easily spread within congregate care settings and may be spread by individuals who have no symptoms,” Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey wrote in a letter to nursing home administrators May 1. “The ability to limit the spread of this virus within these settings depends on the ability to rapidly identify infections by testing individuals in these settings.”
This month, all nursing homes in the state will be required to coordinate mass testing of residents and staff to “ensure that our most vulnerable populations are protected and closely monitored for illness,” Piercey added.
As part of the initiative, state health department staff and/or members of the Tennessee National Guard will be available to help with specimen collection if needed. The state will also provide access to personal protective equipment (PPE) for collection procedures along with laboratory testing at no cost.
Facilities should still continue to regularly report any clusters of two or more cases of COVID-19 immediately to either their local or state health department, according to the letter.
“This will allow those at highest risk for severe illness to be safely tested and will allow facilities to rapidly isolate any staff or residents who test positive,” Piercey wrote. “Testing results from this effort will also allow us to most efficiently distribute resources, prevention and control guidance tailored to your facility.”
Other counties besides Sumner with the largest outbreaks of the virus at long-term care facilities include Shelby County with 202 cases and 24 deaths; Davidson County with 137 cases and eight deaths; and McMinn County with 114 cases and four deaths.
Last month, the state health department released its three-step action plan aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 at nursing homes, assisted care living facilities and residential homes for the aged.
Within four hours of being notified that a location has more than one laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 case or at least two suspected cases, the state will consult with the facility on infection control measures, make personal protective equipment recommendations and identify staff and essential services to assist with testing, cleaning and decontamination needs, according to the plan.
A determination on whether targeted or widespread testing is needed among residents and staff will be made within six hours. The state will also consult with the facility regarding relocation of residents to hospitals for higher level medical care.
Case investigation and contact tracing among facility staff and residents will remain ongoing as the state health department works towards resolving the COVID-19 outbreak. An outbreak is considered to be resolved when there are two incubation periods – 28 days total – with no new cases from the date of last exposure.