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14 residents at Athens nursing home dead, 80 test positive for coronavirus

Two more residents at Life Care Center passed away as COVID-19 sweeps through the facility.

ATHENS, Tenn. — Update (5/26/2020): Fourteen people have now died after a COVID-19 outbreak at the Life Care Center of Athens.

According to Life Care Center of Athens, 80 of the 99 residents have tested positive for COVID-19. Sixty-five COVID-19 positive residents are currently living and being cared for by staff in an isolation area within the facility.

Altogether 52 associates have tested positive for COVID-19. Thirty-eight of those associates have recovered and returned to work, after meeting the strict CDC guidelines, according to Life Care Center of Athens. 

The facility said it has made testing available to all of its associates and residents, and that all of its residents have now been tested.

Update (5/18/2020): 12 people are now dead after a COVID-19 outbreak at an Athens nursing home.

According to Life Care Center of Athens, 12 residents died after 72 tested positive for the coronavirus. One resident remains hospitalized.

More associates have also tested positive, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases between staff and residents at the nursing home to 121.

"Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family and friends of the residents who have passed away as the result of COVID-19. Our facility is a family, and we’re all working together to take care of our residents and each other. We remain committed to providing quality care as we fight COVID-19," Jeffery Ricks, executive director of Life Care Center of Athens said.

The Tennessee Department of Health's Friday report, which did not include Friday's updated numbers, showed 11 people died at Life Care Center of Athens and a total of 115 residents and staff tested positive.

Update (5/09/2020): Nine people are now dead after a COVID-19 outbreak at an Athens nursing home.

As of Monday, Life Care Center of Athens said 71 residents tested positive and 27 tested negative. 

Three residents are hospitalized, and the center said other residents are receiving care in the COVID-19 isolation area from dedicated staff.

Two more associates have also tested positive for COVID-19, bring the total up to 48. Three tests are pending and 80 associates tested negative. The center said 16 associates have recovered and are returning to work. 

Update: (05/08/2020): Eight are now dead after the coronavirus swept through an Athens nursing home.

Staff at Life Care Center of Athens said a total of 71 residents have tested positive for the coronavirus. A total of 27 tested negative, and three residents are hospitalized. 

This marks an increase of four deaths since Life Care Center's last update on May 4.  

The facility said non-hospitalized residents who tested positive for the virus are receiving care in its coronavirus isolation area. 

Life Care Center also released the latest number of virus-infected staff members. It said 46 associates tested positive for COVID-19. Of the 46 associates, 13 have recovered and met CDC guidelines for returning to work.

A total of 80 staff members tested negative for COVID-19, and three tests are pending. The facility said virus-infected staff members won't be allowed back at work until they meet CDC guidelines for returning. 

RELATED: VERIFY: CDC did not lower or revise the COVID-19 death count by 30,000 cases

RELATED: Knox area hospitals talk about plans to ease into resuming services

Update (05/04/2020): Four are now dead after testing positive for coronavirus at an Athens nursing home. 

Staff at Life Care Center of Athens said a total of 70 residents have now tested positive for coronavirus. A total of 27 have tested negative, and two residents are currently hospitalized. 

More staff also tested positive, bringing the total positive staff cases to 42. Life Care Center said 73 associates tested negative for the virus, and 19 tests are pending. 

"Our residents who have tested both positive and negative for COVID-19 are checked multiple times per day for symptoms or changes in condition," said Executive Director Jeffery Ricks in a Monday press release. "If a resident who tested negative begins showing any symptom that could be associated with COVID-19, we retest them."

The nursing home said if an associate tests positive, he or she is not allowed to return to work until guidelines from the CDC for returning to work are met. Staff from other Life Care Centers are filling in until Athens staff can return.

Update (05/01/2020): An earlier version of this story said that three people died at the facility, due to an error in a release from Life Care Center of Athens officials. 

Life Care Center issued a correction, saying two are dead after testing positive for COVID-19.

Two residents at the Life Care Center of Athens have died after testing positive for COVID-19, according to a press release from the Life Care Centers of America.

More staff also tested positive for COVID-19, with the number of cases rising to 39, according to the press release. The center also said that 66 associates tested negative for COVID-19, and 26 tests were still pending.

If a staff member tests positive they are not allowed to return to work until they meet guidelines from the CDC. Life Care Centers of America said that they are relying on their network of facilities to staff Life Care Center of Athens.

Employees who work at the Life Care Center of Athens from another facility will not be able to return to their original facility until they meet safety guidelines from the CDC.

Update

A second resident at the Life Care Center of Athens has died after testing positive for coronavirus, according to a spokesperson for Life Care Centers of America.

The spokesperson said two more residents are also currently hospitalized, bringing the total number of residents who contracted COVID-19 up to 58.

According to a release on Wednesday afternoon, 12 staff members at Life Care Center of Athens have also now tested positive for COVID-19.

Keith Blankenship said on Facebook his mother, Sandy Blankenship died just after midnight on Wednesday morning. He confirmed her passing to 10News.

RELATED: Family remembers woman who died after testing positive for coronavirus at Athens nursing home

The identity of the second resident who died is not known at this time.

Original story

McMinn County's mayor said dozens of staff and residents at a nursing and rehabilitation facility in Athens have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Life Care Centers of America said 54 residents tested positive for COVID-19 and 37 residents tested negative. 

According to Mayor John Gentry, he was told Monday up to 55 staff and residents at Life Care Center of Athens tested positive for COVID-19. McMinn County's reported cases of COVID-19 jumped from 14 on Sunday to 65 Monday.

RELATED: 'This thing really is real' | 54 infected as COVID-19 spreads in East TN nursing home

Gentry said the facility has around 90 patients and all staff have been tested for the coronavirus.

Life Care Center of Athens executive director Jeffery Ricks released a statement about the cases:

"At Life Care Center of Athens, the safety and well-being of our residents are our highest priority. The safety and well-being of our associates and our community are also paramount considerations in every action we take. In an effort to fully understand the spread of the virus, 100% of our residents were tested over the past few days. As results come back, our number of positive cases are being appropriately reported to all the required agencies, and we remain in consistent communication with residents’ family members. We are strictly following guidelines from the CDC, the Tennessee State Department of Health and the local department of health to protect the safety of our residents and associates. The health department is also offering testing for all of our associates, which is being completed today, April 27. Both the state and local health departments have been extremely supportive, and we extend our sincere thanks. As of now, patients who test positive are separated from those who test negative. We have also paused admissions because we want our focus to remain on our current residents and associates.Our associates are the truest heroes in all of this. Our facility is a family, and we’re all working together to take care of our residents and each other. We remain committed to providing quality care as we fight COVID-19."

The Cleveland, Tennessee-based Life Care Centers of America runs care facilities across the U.S., including one in Kirkland, Washington that was at the epicenter of the state's initial outbreak in mid-February. Nearly 40 people associated with the facility died to COVID-19 by March after more than 100 residents, employees and visitors became infected.

RELATED: Nursing home outbreaks lay bare chronic industry problems

According to KING 5 News in Seattle, Life Care Center of Kirkland faced a $611,325 fine after federal surveyors found "immediate jeopardy" situations during an inspection of the nursing home. 

The immediate jeopardy specifically included: the facility's failure to quickly identify and manage ill residents, notify the Washington State Department of Health about the increasing rate of respiratory infection among residents, and failure to possess a backup plan following the absence of the Life Care Center's primary clinician - who became ill.

RELATED: Tennessee releases new data, action plans to prevent further COVID-19 infections at nursing homes