Coronavirus kills 2 Tennessee nursing home residents, 70 cases reported

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The novel coronavirus has claimed the lives of at least two residents at a Tennessee nursing home. Management at Life Care Center of Athens confirmed the deaths Wednesday, local news outlets reported.

Some 58 of the nursing home's 95 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, as have 12 employees, bringing the total to 70, according to Wednesday estimates. At this time, all residents and staff have been tested for the virus, local news outlets reported.

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One of the two deaths was reported in 71-year-old resident Sandy Blankenship, her son, Keith A. Blankenship, wrote on Facebook.

"I love you mom, I miss you so much," he wrote on Facebook on Wednesday, adding that "heaven gained a beautiful angel."

Sandy Blankenship was reportedly isolated immediately after testing positive over the weekend. She entered Starr Regional Medical Center on Monday before dying on Wednesday. When she was first rushed to the hospital, doctors were concerned over the drop in her oxygen levels, Keith Blankenship wrote in a previous post. He noted his mother's lungs were in "severe condition" at the time.

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"This virus is nasty," Crystal McCullough, Sandy Blankenship’s daughter, told Knox News. "Any time I was in Life Care, they were very attentive. And the staff at Starr Regional was amazing. I live seven hours away and the nurse caring for her when she passed dressed out to go in and put the phone to her ear so myself, my husband and my son could say goodbye."

Sandy Blankenship pictured with her husband, Rex.

Sandy Blankenship pictured with her husband, Rex. (Courtesy of Crystal McCullough)

A family member of another resident took to Facebook to describe staff members’ work against the virus as “fighting a fire you can’t see," Knox News reported.

The nursing home kept in consistent communication with residents’ family members, Jeffery Ricks, Life Care Center of Athens executive director, said in a statement, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He said the facility is “strictly following” guidelines in place from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tennessee State Department of Health and the local department of health.

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Residents with positive cases were separated from those who tested negative, Ricks also said. The nursing home had also paused admissions to focus on current residents.