UPDATE: Tennessee Health and Nursing Center Official speaks on COVID-19 outbreak


ARDMORE, Tenn. – Elk River Heath and and Nursing Center in Ardmore has 79 beds, but right now, there are just 31 patients living there.

30 of the 31 patients have contracted the COVID-19 virus at some point during the facility’s outbreak. One had the virus before being admitted into the facility.

This update comes after a press release was sent by Elk River on Monday afternoon. A virus outbreak started in the facility on September 18. Since then, 52 patients have contracted the virus, 17 of those have died. Officials say there were about 62 patients total when the outbreak started.

Some of the 17 patients who died have been with the center for years, according to Administrator J.D. Davis.

“To lose that many that quick, is a devastating blow to not just the families, but the extended family of the staff who take care of these patients every day,” Davis said.

The outbreak started after two staff members tested positive on September 16th. The staff were, and still are, being tested weekly. These two staff members were A-symptomatic. Their positive test was taken the same day Kellye Smith admitted her father into Elk River.

“When we admitted him, they said they had no outbreak since March, they were really proud of it, and that’s one of the reasons we thought this was a great facility, they were clean, all that,” Smith said.

Mandatory testing of patients began immediately after hearing the news of the two positive staff members. Patients have been tested weekly ever since.

On the 18th, three patients tested positive, and the outbreak had officially begun. It has “spread like a wildfire,” according to Davis.

These positive cases also mean weekly inspections from the Tennessee Department of Health. Two inspectors were at Elk River Tuesday in unmarked cars. The facility has passed all inspections so far.

“We have not received any deficiencies for that. We have not had any shortage of PPE supplies. so basically this is something that has to run its course,” Davis said.

Davis mentioned there are three of 31 current patients who are still testing COVID positive. They will continue getting visits from the Department of Health and testing the patients regularly until the building reaches zero COVID positive cases.

Patients are at a higher risk because of their age. Davis said his staff is doing their best to inform families if their loved ones tested positive. Smith said she found out unexpectedly.

Smith visited her father every day, and said she made a point to ask caregivers about his health once a day. She claims she was told every day that he was doing well, when, in fact, he had started running a fever during his stay.

While Smith did visit him every day, there is a restriction on visitors during the outbreak, so she peeked in through his outside window and communicated with him that way. On October 9th, she was visiting her father and saw he did not have a blanket. She was trying to get the attention of a caregiver to cover him up when the caregiver shared the diagnosis:

“She said, look, your father has tested positive for COVID, and I was like, ‘well nobody called us.’ She was like, ‘we haven’t had time, it’s crazy in here.’ If I heard that once, I heard it a million times how crazy it was. We knew then, we started making arrangements to get him out of there,” Smith said.

She took her father home on Friday, October 16th, one month after he was admitted into the facility. She says he is doing well and getting stronger every day.

Davis said he’s recently had COVID-19 himself. When News 19 asked him if he thinks he was exposed to the virus at Elk River, he said, most likely, yes.

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