COVID-19 deaths up to 8 at Life Care Center of Athens, Tennessee

Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Life Care Center of Athens is seen on Monday, May 4, 2020 in Athens, Tenn.

Four more residents of Life Care Center of Athens, Tennessee, have died amid the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing the death toll to eight, the facility reported on Friday.

Now, 71 residents have tested positive for coronavirus, the center said. That's in addition to 46 workers. The senior living facility reported that 13 associates have recovered and met U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for returning to work.

Jeffrey Ricks, the center's executive director, said in a statement that the facility's "heart-felt condolences go out to the family and friends of the residents who have passed away "

The facility, owned by Cleveland, Tennessee-based Life Care Centers of America, said that three residents are hospitalized.

"We remain in consistent communication with our medical director and local hospitals to ensure our residents are transferred if more acute care is needed," Ricks said. "We are also checking in with their families frequently and providing as much support as possible."

Other residents are receiving care in the Athens center's COVID-19 isolation area, the facility said.

"Our facility is a family, and we're all working together to take care of our residents and each other," Ricks said.

On Friday, Gov. Bill Lee's office said that the Unified-Command Group that's fighting COVID-19 has focused on testing Tennessee's vulnerable populations.

It said the group is committing to targeted testing in the state's long-term care facilities as well as in veterans' homes and correctional facilities.

Life Care Centers of America is the nation's largest private nursing home company.

A Life Care Centers nursing home in Kirkland, Washington, has seen more than 120 cases of coronavirus infections and at least 37 deaths. That facility emerged as an early center of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.