Nursing home residents evacuated amid COVID-19 outbreak; 2 test positive, others awaiting results

Posted at 9:02 PM, Mar 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-28 12:54:23-04

GALLATIN, Tenn. (WTVF) — In Sumner County, nearly two dozen residents of a nursing home were taken to the hospital late Friday night because of Coronavirus concerns. This is the same long term care facility that had seen at least two positive cases this week. NewsChannel 5 Investigates was the first to report on the outbreak in Gallatin and was at the nursing home, watching the evacuation unfold.

"It's something that you, you don't think you're ever going to see in your hometown and where you live. It's like a movie." That's how one observer described the scene.

It was unsettling to watch as emergency crews covered from head to toe in hazmat suits and wearing breathing masks, brought one patient after another out of the Gallatin Center for Rehabilitation and Healing late Friday night.

In all, nearly two dozen ambulances from across Sumner County and from as far away as Cheatham and Dickson Counties spent more than two hours carefully taking patients out of the nursing home off North Water Avenue, not far from downtown Gallatin.

"We were advised that some of those patients tested positive for Covid 19 and the others were being transported out of an abundance of caution because they were displaying signs and symptoms," Sumner County EMS Chief Greg Miller said during a briefing for reporters by city, county and hospital officials.

This, as word of what was going on at the nursing home quickly spread throughout Sumner County and anxious family members raced to the scene to find out about their loved ones.

"There's really no way to describe it. Surreal. It's overwhelming especially when you know your mom's right at the heart of it and you just can't get answers," Jamie Vinson told NewsChannel 5 Investigates as she watched the emergency crews covered in white suits at work.

A total of 24 patients were taken from the nursing home to Sumner Regional Medical Center. One of the patients has since died.

"We have mobilized our emergency team and area already implementing plans that will immediately and significantly increase our capacity across our health system should we experience a steep increase in critically ill patients," Susan Peach, CEO of Sumner Regional, said during the news conference.

No one from the facility was at the briefing nor did they make themselves available to reporters at the scene where the ambulance crews returned to be decontaminated after they'd had taken patients to the hospital.

It was only Thursday when NewsChannel 5 Investigates was the first to report of a possible outbreak at the facility and nursing home administrators tried to downplay the seriousness of what was going on, insisting that one only patient had tested positive and was no longer in the facility.

And earlier in the day on Friday, administrators repeatedly assured families in a conference call that they had everything under control and families had nothing to worry about.

"Obviously there was plenty to worry about. There's still plenty to worry about," Jamie Vinson told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

Her mother has been at the nursing home just three weeks and Vinson was frantic and her husband very upset that the facility was not giving them more information.

"It really seems like they don't care. Deliberate indifference, like we're not going to tell you anything," Chad Vinson explained.

On Friday, Gallatin Center administrators promised families that they would keep them updated on the facility's Facebook page, but by Friday evening, it suddenly vanished, with no explanation.

What also is unclear is how many employees here have now tested positive or are showing signs of the virus. Multiple sources tell NewsChannel 5 Investigates that staff members who were sick were told to keep working and that many of them now have been tested and are awaiting their results.

Gallatin's mayor Paige Brown described what's happening at the facility as "incredibly sad for our community."

"We ask that you keep these patients and their families in your prayers and we ask that this serve as a message to all that this virus is so very serious," Brown urged.

Saturday morning, the Gallatin Center for Rehabilitation and Healing released a statement, saying in part: "As the health and wellness of our patients, residents, and employees are our top priority, we have focused our efforts to ensuring such." Click here to read their full response.

Read more: Multiple confirmed COVID-19 cases at Gallatin nursing home


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What is COVID-19 (a.k.a. the new coronavirus?)

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. Examples include the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. COVID-19 stands for "Coronavirus disease 2019," which is when this strain of the coronavirus was discovered.

What are the symptoms?

The CDC says patients confirmed to have the 2019-nCoV reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Or at least two of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

At this time, the CDC believes symptoms could appear as soon as two days after exposure, or as long as 14 days.


The CDC is recommending "common sense" measures such as:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.