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Will Tennessee release nursing homes' COVID-19 numbers? Maybe

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Posted at 5:29 PM, Apr 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-16 19:30:11-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — If you have loved ones in a Tennessee nursing home, you probably want to know how well that facility has handled the COVID-19 crisis.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates has been fighting to get that information for weeks, and now the Lee administration is hinting it may be about ready to be more transparent.

MORE: Tennessee keeps nursing homes' COVID-19 numbers secret

"We're continuing to work on what we can release so I am hopeful to have additional data points for you in the next few days," Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said Thursday afternoon during the governor's COVID-19 briefing.

A prime example is the NHC Healthcare Franklin.

It's known that there was a COVID-19 outbreak there But, as to how many got sick or if any have died, that's information that's being kept from the public.

The nursing home giant would only tell NewsChannel 5 Investigates that there are currently three residents in the facility with COVID-19.

They wouldn't say how many were sent to the hospital or how many have died.

"We feel that reporting active cases gives our patients, families, partners and communities the best information about the current situation," NHC said in a written statement.

As for the total numbers infected or diseased, NHC suggested we ask the health department.

On Monday, state Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey refused to reveal such information.

"Our contact tracing folks and epidemiologists do know exactly what is in each facility. We do not report that publicly," Piercey said in response to a question from NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

So far, Piercey's department has only been willing to list the names nursing homes with two or more cases.

They refuse to say how many confirmed cases.

In the case of the Gallatin nursing home, the health department won't even confirm that at least 20 have died, citing federal privacy rules.

State Rep. John Ray Clemmons wonders why the Lee administration doesn't get that families need information about how well nursing home operators are protecting our society's most vulnerable citizens.

"The decision that we as family members make to place a loved one in a nursing home is difficult enough," the Nashville Democrat continued.

"Not being able to visit them is an additional stress -- and then not knowing what is going on in that nursing home and whether your loved one is being properly cared for."

Other states have found it perfectly legal to release this sort of information -- how many people are sick in each nursing home, how many people have died.

MORE TENNESSEE COVID-19 COVERAGE

See all our coronavirus coverage here

COUNTY-BY-COUNTY CASES IN TENNESSEE

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.

Prevention

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.