The Wilson County Health Department plans to test every resident and staffer at local long-term care facilities for COVID-19 this month, as the state continues to release weekly cluster data.
As of Friday, Elmcroft of Lebanon remains the only county facility on the report with 35 confirmed cases and six deaths. Any facilities with lone or unconfirmed cases are not listed.
“Over the next two weeks, before the end of May, all of the nursing home residents and staff and all of the assisted living residents and staff are going to be tested for COVID,” Hearthside Senior Living Executive Director Sean Dozier said during a health care roundtable hosted by the Lebanon Wilson Chamber of Commerce on Thursday. “The testing is there, and we look forward to doing that. We’re going to be doing that at Hearthside on Monday.”
The Wilson County Health Department also offers free testing daily from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is now providing masks, with individuals asked to call before arriving.
“I would say we’re probably testing anywhere between upper 300 to 400 a week or so,” Wilson County Health Department Director Tim Diffenderfer said. “Also, we have received since the governor’s order about the masks … we have an adequate supply to hand out to folks within our community. The masks are for Tennessee residents, and if anyone would like a mask, it’s a drive-through. We’re out here Monday through Friday during our regular office hours to disperse the masks.”
More test results are coming in from Mt. Juliet after the city partnered with Kroger for a three-day testing drive at Mt. Juliet Middle School.
Diffenderfer said the city was hoping to test more than 1,000 people during the event.
As more results come in, Vanderbilt Wilson County Hospital is preparing for the possibility of treating more patients.
“I’m proud to say that currently we don’t have any in-patients in our facility with COVID-19,” VUMC President Jay Hinesley said during Thursday’s roundtable. “We still have patients that came in with COVID-19 positive diagnoses or tests, and they are still with us, but they have tested negative for COVID-19, which means they’ve sort of moved on … from that stage of disease.”
The hospital currently maintains a unit specifically for COVID-19 patients, which Hinesley expects to be in place for the foreseeable future. Staffers are also providing COVID-19 tests for all patients being admitted to the hospital or seeking elective procedures.
“We’ve had to do some work to expand our testing capabilities in order to do that,” he said. “But it’s a standard we have set as a health system.”
The statewide push for increased testing is particularly focused on senior citizens, one of the high-risk groups for COVID-19 complications. Many of the residents in long-term care facilities have been quarantined for months, and Dozier said that can take its toll.
“They haven’t seen their families except for Zoom, FaceTime or whatever, or outside their windows,” he said. “To be honest, they’re getting down. The staff is doing a great job, but I think across the country nursing homes and assisted living just need a little hope.”
One way the community has worked to lift their spirits is through a drive-by parade at Pavilion Senior Living, which saw families decorate their cars and greet their loved ones on Friday.
“The residents don’t get many visitors with the quarantine going on, so we wanted to find a way they could do it while social distancing and having fun,” the facility’s Chief Marketing Officer Heather Sadler said. “Some of them have only been able to see their families through a window, and now there’s truckloads of grandkids they haven’t seen in 55 days or so. Half of our job is to take care of them physically, but we need to care for them emotionally as well.