Governor: Nursing homes residents, staff must be tested before end of June

The governor has released updated guidelines on caring for residents and staff at nursing homes and senior living facilities.

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) – The governor said in a new report the residents and staff at nursing homes and senior living facilities must be tested for COVID-19 by the end of next month.  

Gov. Bill Lee said the population at the nursing homes and senior living facilities is the “one of the most vulnerable populations to COVID-19.” There are more than 70,000 residents in the Tennessee facilities and Lee added that almost 40 percent of all COVID-19-related deaths due to COVID-19 in the state were long-term care residents.

Tennessee long-term care facilities with 2 or more cases of COVID-19

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Source: Tennessee Department of Health

In a new report by Lee and the Unified Command released on Friday, each nursing home must complete an "intent to test survey" from the Tennessee Health Department before Monday.

The report added all residents and staff must be tested for COVID-19 by June 30. Otherwise, these facilities could face some heavy consequences.

"Failure to comply will be considered a serious deficiency, and the Department may seek any remedy including but not limited to, license revocation, license suspension, and the imposition of civil monetary penalties," Lee's office said in a statement on Friday.

At least 23 patients from a Gallatin Nursing Home died after an outbreak hit the facility in March.

Previously the governor had "strongly encouraged" testing of all nursing home staff and residents in Executive Order 38. However, on May 27, the Healthcare Facilities Board unanimously approved new rules and required testing.

According to the recent report, nearly 100 percent of long-term care facilities have completed the Department’s initial survey while 60 percent of facilities have already completed or scheduled testing of residents and staff. 

David DeLoach’s mother is in nursing home. While there have been zero cases at his mother’s facility, DeLoach said he’s in favor of the testing at all long-term care facilities.

“I do believe it’s prudent to focus on these people and do what we can to ensure the containment of the virus is maximized," DeLoach said. “It’s a case of an ounce of prevention is better than A pound of cure.“

Residents and staff have the right to refuse testing. Each facility must have the staff member or residents sign documentation of that refusal.

Under the Executive Order No. 38, the governor said there will be no visitors to nursing homes at this time. 

However, the state provided funding to help accommodate "virtual social visits to enhance communication between nursing home residents and their family members."

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