An elderly resident returns home with help from a relative on April 1, 2020, at the Carriage Court assisted living facility in East Memphis where six residents and staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. The manicured lawns and gated communities of East Memphis’ affluent Massey Hill area may not seem a likely setting for one of Shelby County’s first major COVID-19 strikes. Yet strike it did – right at the heart of this neighborhood’s most vulnerable denizens. Six residents and staff members have tested positive for COVID at Carriage Court of Memphis, an exclusive senior assisted living home where one-bedroom apartments start at just under $35,000 a year. Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter said this week she “applauds’’ Carriage Court for its efforts to quell the outbreak and for the “exemplary infection control practices’’ it maintained even before a health department “strike team’’ intervened over the weekend at the 125-bed facility. But as the coronavirus threat heads toward an expected surge later this month that could overwhelm the county’s healthcare system, experts fear the potentially life-threatening outbreak at Carriage Court could be a bellwether for the county’s 58 licensed nursing homes and assisted care facilities, several situated in some of Memphis’ poorest communities. The Institute for Public Service Reporting is based at the University of Memphis and supported financially by U of M, private grants and donations made through the University Foundation. Its work is published by The Daily Memphian through a paid-use agreement. Follow the Institute on Facebook or Twitter @psr_memphis. “It’s just the first of many. That’s the problem. What’s going on with them is potentially going to happen everywhere,’’ said Dr. Jeff Warren, a Memphis City Councilman, physician and member of the Memphis and Shelby County COVID-19 Task Force, a collection of health professionals, politicians, government planners and others assigned to contain the coronavirus threat here. Members of the task force will hold a teleconference at noon today – Friday, April 3 – with nursing home administrators to plan for the surge. One of the difficult questions they will grapple with involves whether to keep virus-stricken residents in nursing homes rather than transfer them to hospitals, where their chances of survival may not increase. “What we’re going to try to hope to do is to try to keep as many people as possible in the nursing homes,’’ Warren said. Six residents and staff members at the Carriage Court senior assisted living facility in East Memphis have tested positive for COVID-19. “…They’re either going to make it or not in the nursing home. And sending them to the hospital to be on a ventilator may mean that someone who’s 20, 30 or 40 or 50 won’t be able to survive because we won’t have enough ventilators.’’ Though many of Shelby County’s long-term care facilities have been on lockdown for three or four weeks now, officials fear the advancing surge. A “critical issue’’ involves a lack of personal protective equipment – PPE – such as masks, protective […]

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