Nursing homes and other senior living centers are having to constantly adapt during the coronavirus emergency, and those facilities in Georgia are now under tighter restrictions as public health officials work to protect the most vulnerable population facing the virus.
Earlier this week, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp extended the state's shelter-in-place order that requires residents to stay at home and for businesses that are deemed non-essential to close.
Along with the shelter-in-place extension, Kemp also put tighter restrictions on nursing homes, residential hospices, assisted living centers, personal care homes and other similar facilities.
Those restrictions include canceling group activities and meals and requiring nursing home workers who test positive for the coronavirus to be quarantined.
The Georgia Department of Public Health announced Friday that more than 400 residents of 80 senior living facilities across the state had tested positive for COVID-19.
Cases have exploded in communities like Albany in Southwest Georgia and in the four-county region near Atlanta.
Two senior living facilities in Gordon County — The Oaks at Fairmount and Calhoun Health Care Center — had one confirmed case each. Those are the only two facilities in the seven North Georgia counties closest to Chattanooga.
At a news conference Wednesday, Dr. Kathleen Toomey — the state public health commissioner — revealed that 81 people have died from COVID-19 so far in nursing homes across the state.
In Georgia, people who are 60 years old and older make up 35% of the confirmed COVID-19 cases. However, of the 416 reported deaths in the state, 349 (or 87%) were 60 and older.
This week, Kemp deployed 1,000 additional Georgia National Guard troops to help disinfect senior care facilities on top of 2,000 he deployed in March. Some visited Pleasant Valley Personal Care in Dalton on Thursday morning.
Brooke Breaux is a caregiver at Woodhaven Senior Living in Trenton. The assisted living facility has 20 beds, 11 current residents and six employees who rotate in and out for eight-hour shifts.
"We're not letting any visitors in, only medical personnel like hospice nurses and us caregivers are allowed in the building," Breaux said. "It's been like that for a couple of weeks now."
Breaux said there are 11 residents at the facility and the main goal for the staff is to keep everyone in good spirits.
"We're just trying to stay positive and keep everyone safe," she said.
Breaux said residents were still having group meals on Thursday but said the facility is adjusting to the new mandates as they continue to change.
In Tennessee, Department of Health officials released the names of 10 senior care facilities that have two or more confirmed cases of the coronavirus.
The 10 facilities are in seven counties, three of them in Williamson County and two in Sumner County. None in Hamilton County were on the list, but one resident did test positive for COVID-19 at NHC HealthCare in Glenwood.
Shelley Walker, communications director with the Department of Health, said the list includes any long-term care facility where "at least two cases have been reported among staff members and/or residents."
Breaux said other than the time spent together during group meals, residents spend most of their time alone in their rooms these days.
As the coronavirus emergency worsens, even the most simple pleasures are at risk.
Contact Patrick Filbin at email@example.com or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.