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Advocates Push for Rapid Testing in Long-Term Care Facilities

Advocates are asking Gov. Bill Lee to supply Tennessee’s long-term care facilities with rapid coronavirus testing, with the goal of being able to reunite residents with their families faster.

Since early spring, long-term care facilities across the state have closed their doors to visitors because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rachel Blackhurst, public policy and advocacy director with the Alzheimer’s Association’s Tennessee Chapter, said because social isolation among people with dementia can speed decline and worsen cognitive abilities, having access to rapid-turnaround testing is critical for residents, staff and visitors.

She added that individuals with dementia may not be able to use Zoom or other video technologies or be responsive over the phone.

“And while Tennessee has actually done a really, really good job with mobilizing testing and requiring weekly testing for facilities, we’ve seen a decline in how quickly those results come back, and it hasn’t helped with opening facilities up for visitation,” Blackhurst said.

Nearly half of the state’s nursing home residents are living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, and among older adults in assisted living and other residential facilities, 42% have some form of dementia. Tennessee has 700 long-term care facilities.

Photo: Social isolation can worsen cognitive ability and lead to premature death in older adults. (Adobe Stock)

Lucky Knott

Lucky Knott

One of Southern Tennessee's most experienced and recognized news broadcasters and play-by-play sportscasters. Current news director for On Target News and manager of Rooster 101.5 FM. Knott can be heard on 93.9 The Duck, The Rooster 101.5 and Whiskey Country 105.1 and 95.9. He is currently the play by play voice of the Coffee County Red Raiders on The Rooster 101.5. Lucky has done play-by-play for over 3,461 sports events on Radio & TV. He also served 4 years as the Public Information Officer for the Coffee Co. Sheriff's Dept. and taught Radio/TV for 6 years at Grundy County High School.

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