NASHVILLE – An additional 59 residents at a Tennessee nursing home have tested positive for the new coronavirus after more than a dozen already had confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Thirty-three Gallatin Center for Rehabilitation and Healing staff members also tested positive for the coronavirus and are isolating at home.
The new numbers were announced Sunday evening via a news release from Gov. Bill Lee's office. In total, 74 residents of the nursing home have tested positive, according to Lee's spokeswoman Laine Arnold.
The additional 59 people who tested positive were being taken to nearby Sumner Regional Medical Center for treatment.
Two nursing home residents have died, said Sumner County Mayor Anthony Holt during a Sunday evening news conference.
Holt pleaded with all who live in Sumner County to take seriously his call to stay home.
"I am begging, I am pleading, I am asking that you stay home if at all possible. Keep your loved ones safe. This is serious," Holt said.
The governor's COVID-19 Unified Command – a joint operation between Tennessee Department of Health, Tennessee Department of Military and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency – is involved in addressing the outbreak at the Gallatin center.
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"Unified Command has worked in partnership with the Gallatin Center for Rehabilitation and Healing and local partners in testing residents, transporting the sick and further evaluating those at risk," said Unified Command Director Stuart McWhorter, in the news release. "This situation has escalated quickly and we urge nursing homes and assisted care facilities to reach out to us as soon as cases are identified within their populations."
State officials think the Gallatin center followed proper protocols, but will undergo further investigation, the Sunday news release from the governor's office states.
Lee signed an executive order March 22 restricting outside visitors to nursing homes and assisted living facilities. On Sunday evening, the governor and the Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey announced additional guidance for long term care facilities.
The state is facilitating the cleaning and disinfecting of the Gallatin center. It is also offering supplemental support for the residents who do not have COVID-19.
The COVID-19 outbreak at the Gallatin nursing home evolved over the weekend.
Gallatin Mayor Paige Brown said 24 patients were transported to the hospital Friday night, including one patient who has since died.
She identified the deceased patient as Homer Barr, a retired captain for the Gallatin Fire Department and a well-loved member of the community. It was not immediately clear what caused his death, however. He served on the fire department from 1978 to 2004.
"Captain Barr was my officer when I began my career in 1993. One thing that always stood out with him was he was always concerned about his firefighters’ safety," Assistant Chief Robert Richie said in a Sunday news release, "and I’m grateful to him for that."
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The second nursing home resident who died has yet to be identified.
On Saturday, more than 20 members of the national guard helped the nursing home test all of its patients and staff, the governor's office said. Test results were received Sunday.
Brown said that 142 patients were tested, and on Saturday 17 more patients were taken to the hospital for care.
Transports continued Sunday, according to Sumner County EMS Chief Greg Miller, who said officials requested aid from across the region to help move the 59 additional cases announced Sunday.
The transportation of these patients is expected to continue into Monday, according to a post on the Sumner Regional Medical Center's Facebook page.
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Additional patients could be transported in the future from the nursing home if more test results come back positive or if more patients exhibit signs and symptoms, Miller said.
"This is an unprecedented situation that none of us have ever seen before," Miller said. "It doesn't require an order to exercise common sense. Social distance. If you do not have to be out, do not. We're going to experience more numbers. We're going to experience more deaths."
Follow Holly Meyer on Twitter @HollyAMeyer.