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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / NHC HealthCare is seen on Monday, April 6, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

CORRECTION: This story was updated at 10 p.m. on Friday, July 17, 2020, to state that NHC Rossville reported a total of 72 confirmed coronavirus cases on June 16, not July 16.

On May 26, the Georgia Department of Public Health reported 127 COVID-19 cases in Walker County. For the most part, the county as a whole was able to keep the virus under control, while other parts of the state struggled to handle the outbreak.

A day later, the county's case count increased by 21, tying its largest daily jump since the pandemic started. What was most concerning was all 21 cases came from one nursing home in Rossville.

On May 29, the NHC nursing home in Rossville was reporting 24 residents and one employee had tested positive for the virus.

At the start of the outbreak, most of the residents weren't showing any symptoms. More testing was done and employees started to take even more stringent precautions knowing an outbreak in the facility was possible.

A few days later, 15 more employees tested positive. Two days later, the number of infections rose to 52, affecting 30 residents and 22 staff members.

For the next week, a few residents were hospitalized due to complications from the virus. Younger employees started to recover as testing increased. On June 8, the facility reported its first death.

The story was similar to other outbreaks in the state and country. While Georgia managed to slow the spread of the coronavirus in late May and early June, nursing homes and other facilities were hit hard. In tight quarters with a vulnerable population, older people with pre-existing and chronic conditions got sick and died.

Statewide, 1,435 people had died in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities as of Friday afternoon. The deaths accounted for nearly 46% of the 3,132 deaths in the state.

A week after the Rossville nursing home reported its first death, none of the 47 residents had recovered from the virus. Five more people had died by June 16, including a 90-year-old man from Rossville.

Around the same time, the state's health department announced 100% of nursing home residents in facilities with 25 or more beds had been tested for COVID-19. In all other long-term care facilities aside from nursing homes, 77% of residents and 57% of employees had been tested statewide.

On June 16, NHC Rossville reported a total of 72 confirmed coronavirus cases. Of the 48 residents who had tested positive, six had died, four were in the hospital and one had recovered. Seventeen of the 24 employees that tested positive had recovered.

By the end of the month, 10 residents at the facility had died, which accounted for about 16% of the confirmed cases in the building.

This week, the nursing home is reporting zero current infections. In total, 60 residents tested positive and 50 have recovered. All the employees who tested positive, of which there were 33, have recovered. A spokesperson with NHC Rossville did not return a call Friday afternoon by press time.

Elsewhere in the area, the Pruitt Health nursing home in Fort Oglethorpe looks to be the next nursing home hot spot. By Friday afternoon, 10 residents had died and 78 of the current 80 residents at the facility had tested positive for the virus. Only 13 people had recovered.

Contact Patrick Filbin at pfilbin@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.

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