New COVID-19 cluster in local nursing home reported including 3 reported deaths

COVID-19 outbreak at Graceland Nursing Home

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Shelby County Health Department is reporting an outbreak of COVID-19 at one local nursing home where several residents have died.

The Shelby County Health Department says Graceland Rehabilitation and Nursing has a new cluster of COVID-19 cases including three deaths. 25 residents and 15 staff members also tested positive.

This is the first deadly cluster in a local nursing home in more than a month.

“What this tells me is not so much that the people who are working there did a bad job, it’s that as a community we still have this stuff out there and we still have to be careful,” said Dr. Jeff Warren, Shelby County COVID-19 Task Force member.

The latest cluster at Graceland Rehabilitation and Nursing Center is the first reported outbreak of COVID-19 in a Shelby County nursing home since August.

That’s when one person died at Highlands of Memphis Health Rehabilitation Center.

The numbers indicate a drastic decline in outbreaks at local nursing homes. From May to August, Shelby County averaged more than 11 nursing home clusters per month. But experts say we are not out of the woods.

“We’re in an ongoing battle, OK? We may have an upper hand now because everyone has been doing what they’re supposed to be doing,” Warren said.

“It is a marathon and you can go quite some time and not have any cases until you do,” said Dr. Steven Threlkeld, infectious disease specialist at Baptist Memorial Healthcare.

Graceland Rehabilitation dealt with another COVID-19 outbreak earlier this year. In June, three residents and 19 staff members tested positive for COVID-19, but no deaths were reported.

“We’ll just have to keep our guard up,” Threlkeld said. “As we’ve said many times, the virus remains out there.”

Graceland Rehabilitation and Nursing releases this statement late Monday afternoon:

“Here at Graceland Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, safety has always been our top priority. Before it was mandated we voluntarily started requiring universal masking in our facility. We formed a task force and started implementing industry best practices for prevention and containment. We designated a portion of our facility for isolation of potential or suspected cases. Upon return from hospital stays and upon new admission or whenever it deemed prudent, we isolate and monitor residents for symptoms. All employees are tested weekly. Visitation has been halted and group activities suspended. Employees have been held to very strict guidelines requiring them to be tested weekly and report all other facilities they may be working in addition to Graceland. If they should test positive, they are prohibited from working at Graceland again until they test negative twice. "We are proud of our efforts; however, when dealing with a pandemic no plan is foolproof. We have family members, friends and peers who have succumb to the highly infectious and danger virus. This illness is no respecter of person or position. Statistically, COVID-19 would inevitably arrive at our facility, so we have worked diligently for the last 6 months to be prepared.

Our pledge: We will continue to work tirelessly to protect those in our care but there are no guarantees. The one thing we can promise you is that we take our role as healthcare providers seriously and are doing everything within reason to insulate those in our charge."

“We have been communicating openly and often with both our resident and their loved ones, including weekly robo-calls and letters. We are transparent and make every effort to keep our Graceland family informed. This has been our motto since the earliest days of the pandemic.” Machelle Calaway, administrator at Graceland RNC, said."

There are only two new COVID-19 clusters in local nursing homes reported thus far in September with the second outbreak reported at St. Claire Health and Rehab.

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