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

The Life Care Center of Athens said nearly two-thirds of residents have tested positive for coronavirus.

ATHENS, Tenn. — Amy Arnwine got the call this weekend: her husband Anthony tested positive for coronavirus, one of 54 residents at the Life Care Center of Athens who were infected. 

"I knew it was real and I knew it was serious, but it’s like oh my gosh, this thing is — this is real," she said. 

Arnwine hasn't seen her husband since nursing homes closed their doors to visitors in March. She said he used to call her on the phone, but can't anymore now that he's isolated in his room. 

Outside the nursing facility Tuesday, staff could be seen wearing masks and gloves. Inside, nearly two-thirds of the residents have coronavirus. 

Life Care Centers, based in Cleveland, Tennessee, runs this facility and 200 others including the assisted-living facility in Washington State where dozens died last month.

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In a statement, the facility director said staff have separated positive cases from people who tested negative for the virus. 

"Boy, this is a fear coming into reality," McMinn Co. Mayor John Gentry said. He also said that he worries about the stress Life Care Center patients could put on the area's small hospital. 

"Really seems to be those confined areas where that contagion really manifests itself," he said.

Amy Arnwine said Anthony, 62, has a sore throat, but his fever has subsided. She gets daily calls from the facility with updates. 

The outbreak in Athens is not over yet. Some test results from Life Care are still processing and the NHC Athens nursing home next door reported an employee has fallen ill. 

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