A line of walkers against a hospital wall.

Cookeville nursing home faces COVID-19 fatalities

A nursing home in Cookeville has lost three residents to COVID-19 following a sudden outbreak this month. The tragedy at Signature HealthCARE of Putnam County adds to growing public concern over outbreaks at Tennessee care facilities, where the state’s most vulnerable population is increasingly exposed to the virus.

The Nashville Tennessean reported that 33 residents and 15 staff members at Signature HealthCARE tested positive for the virus in April. Three of the infected residents have succumbed to the virus so far. The facility reported that none of the infected staff would be allowed to return to work without extensive medical testing.

The Putnam County facility’s outbreak follows a similar COVID-19 infection at a Gallatin nursing home earlier this month. In spite of experiencing an emergency evacuation and at least 20 resident fatalities, the Gallatin facility reopened after a brief cleaning.

In light of these tragedies, state health agencies face growing public concern over the risks of COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes. However, the state health commissioner refuses to release exact statistics on coronavirus outbreaks in care facilities across the state. The state has published a list of 10 facilities in which residents have been diagnosed with the virus, but the number of infections for each facility remains unpublicized.

The virus has an especially devastating effect on nursing homes. With many physically vulnerable residents living in close proximity, any infection is especially contagious. If staff fail to implement and follow strict safety precautions, the virus can spread rapidly, with devastating effects.

Unfortunately, many of the care homes experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks have demonstrated a disregard for such precautions in the past. A recent study by the Washington Post tracked 650 care facilities in which COVID-19 outbreaks have been reported. The study found that roughly 40 percent of the facilities had previously been cited for violating federal infection-control regulations. When facilities fail to adhere to basic guidelines under normal circumstances, it is doubtful that they’ll implement stricter safety precautions in stressful emergencies.

Some facilties are facing the consequences of their unpreparedness. The Life Care Center of Kirkland, Washington, was fined over $600,000 after a COVID-19 outbreak swept through the center in March. 37 of the home’s residents died, with nearly 90 others infected. Health officials found that the center was grossly careless in its handling of the outbreak: staff members came to work sick, sanitizer and protective gear were ill-supplied, and the center failed to report the number of respiratory infections spreading among residents. Such negligence may have needlessly cost some residents their lives.

If your loved one has suffered as a result of a COVID-19 outbreak in a nursing home or assisted living facility, call the Nashville attorneys at David Randolph Smith for a free consultation on your potential COVID-19 nursing home case.