Two more residents at Life Care Center of Athens died from COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the fatality rate to 14 since the cluster of cases first struck the skilled-nursing facility last month.
The deaths took place as the number of individuals testing positive in Tennessee approaches 21,000 and as the number of fatalities in the United States closes in on 100,000.
The virus was first detected in Tennessee on March 5 and the first Bradley County case was announced on March 20.
As of Tuesday, 80 out of Life Care Center of Athens 99 residents, as well as 52 employees, have tested positive for the virus. In addition, 38 employees are fully recovered and have returned to their jobs.
Sixty-five residents are currently in isolation at the facility, located in McMinn County.
Life Care Center of Athens facility director Jeffery Ricks said 84 associates have tested negative.
Ricks said the safety and well-being of Life Care's residents remain its highest priority.
"The safety of our associates and our community are also paramount considerations in every action we take," he said. "Since the notification of our first positive case of COVID-19, we have been committed to taking care of our residents who have tested positive for COVID-19. We also continue to partner with local hospitals and physicians to arrange the transfer of our COVID-19 patients to local hospitals for continued care if their condition requires a more acute setting."
The crisis caused by the pandemic has resulted in Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R), along with other members of the U.S. Senate, to introduce bipartisan legislation to observe a moment of silence for the victims.
The tribute is planned to take place at noon Monday, June 1.
The legislation is co-sponsored by Blackburn and fellow U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Chris Coons (D-Del.), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
Blackburn said hundreds of Tennesseans have lost their lives due to COVID-19.
“For the families and friends of the victims, nothing can replace their loved ones whose time was cut short by this virus,” she said. “We are praying for them and for those that continue to battle COVID-19 during this difficult time for our country.”
Coons said the nation “is experiencing a collective trauma of historic proportions, and we should come together as a nation for a moment of silence, prayer, and reflection to mourn the friends, neighbors and loved ones we’ve lost to this pandemic.”
“Just as we’re working together to provide health care and economic relief, we also need to provide each other emotional and spiritual support, and this moment of silence is one way for our nation to begin that important process,” he said.
The Schatz-Blackburn-Coons-Murkowski bill is also co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).
As of Tuesday, the confirmed COVID-19 case count for Tennessee was 20,965, including 343 deaths 1,609 hospitalizations and 13,344 recoveries, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.
The numbers have increased since the state began the process of reopening its economy, known as the Tennessee Pledge, on April 27, as well as efforts to test the population have ramped up in recent weeks.
Since the plan was unveiled on April 24, the number of positive cases and deaths in Tennessee have more than doubled from 9,189 cases and 168 deaths to the states most recent numbers announced Tuesday afternoon.
In addition, since that date, the nation’s fatality rate has jumped from 50,000 to 98,636.
According to the TDH, out of 403,504 individuals in the state tested for the virus, 382,539 were negative.
Two age groups make up 40% of the cases, with 4,245 among those ages 21 to 30 and 4,183 for those ages 31 to 40. Both age groups have accounted for four fatalities, with the majority of deaths, 290, occurring among those 61 and older.
According to a May 22 bulletin from Gov. Bill Lee, Tennessee continues to be a national leader in COVID-19 testing.
“Tennessee has already tested 2.5% of the state’s population and is on track to reach 3% by the end of May, surpassing the White House’s testing criteria of 2% per month for a safe reopening,” the bulletin stated.
From May 1 to May 20, the state conducted approximately 177,000 COVID-19 tests, more than all previous weeks combined.
“The state currently conducts, on average, upwards of 8,700 tests per day and was listed by the Harvard Global Health Institute as one of 7 states to reach a benchmark for COVID-19 testing,” according to the bulletin.
Bradley County cases
Locally, 99 individuals have tested positive, with 76 recoveries and one death. The first case was announced by the Bradley County Health Department on March 20.
Case count increases across state
Confirmed case totals for Bradley County neighbors include:
• Grundy: 32 cases, 26 recoveries and 1 death;
• Hamilton: 642 cases, 217 recoveries and 15 deaths;
(According to the New York Times, cases in Chattanooga have doubled every nine days over the last two weeks).
• Marion: 37 cases, 26 recoveries and 1 death;
• McMinn: 135 cases, 94 recoveries and 14 deaths;
• Meigs: 25 cases, 20 recoveries and 0 deaths;
• Monroe: 58 cases, 37 recoveries and 2 deaths;
• Polk: 14 cases, 13 recoveries and 0 deaths;
• Rhea: 197 cases, 12 recoveries and 0 deaths;
• Sequatchie: 12 cases, 9 recoveries and 0 deaths;
Counties with Tennessee's highest numbers of cases include:
• Bedford: 269 cases, 219 recoveries and 4 deaths;
• Bledsoe: 608 cases, 603 recoveries and 1 death;
• Davidson: 4,716 cases, 3,011 recoveries and 60 deaths;
• Knox: 345 cases, 302 recoveries and 5 deaths;
• Lake: 413 cases, 62 recoveries and 0 deaths;
• Madison: 174 cases, 152 recoveries and 2 deaths;
• Montgomery: 251 cases, 108 recoveries and 3 deaths;
• Putnam: 410 cases, 165 recoveries and 5 deaths;
• Rutherford: 1,063 cases, 462 recoveries and 22 deaths;
• Shelby: 4,516 cases, 3,015 recoveries and 96 deaths;
• Sumner: 838 cases, 368 recoveries and 45 deaths;
• Trousdale: 1,392 cases, 1,336 recoveries and 4 deaths;
• Williamson: 527 cases, 346 recoveries and 10 deaths; and
• Wilson: 371 cases, 229 recoveries and 8 deaths.
According to Johns Hopkins University, 1,680,680 individuals have tested positive for COVID-19, resulting in 98,902 fatalities. Of that number there have been 384,902 recoveries.
The university also reported that 5,588,400 individuals worldwide have tested positive, with 350,417 deaths and 2,286,879 recoveries.