Memphis family concerned about loved one’s safety after COVID-19 spike at East Memphis nursing home

Watch: Nursing home COVID-19 spike

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Memphis family is concerned about their loved one’s safety at an East Memphis nursing home.

They claim administrators from Highlands of Memphis Health and Rehabilitation Center didn’t contact them when they were told their loved one tested positive for COVID-19 at the facility.

“I really can’t express it. To have to be concerned for a loved one that’s 95 years old in a facility with this virus going on keep you on your knees anyway,” said Barbara Johnson.

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Johnson said her 95-year-old aunt tested positive for COVID-19 at Highlands of Memphis Health and Rehabilitation Center.

She said she knew this was a possibility but Johnson said it’s how she found out that has her concerned.

“Yesterday when I didn’t get my phone call for FaceTime, I really got a little bit nervous and I called until I finally got a nurse on the second floor, that’s where her room and the nurse told me she tested positive for COVID-19 last Thursday. Last Thursday?” said Johnson.

To this day, Johnson claims no one from the facility called her about the positive test.

“I know you can’t’ control everything but there should have been something in place, we knew about this enough, they could have been making other provisions that’s needed,” she said.

Shelby County Health Department records show a recent spike in COVID-19 cases at this facility.

According to county health records from April 26, there were two positive cases at the Highlands of Memphis – one resident and one employee.

In less than two weeks, the number of cases jumped to 58 along with two confirmed deaths. 47 of the cases are residents and the other 11 are employees.

Starting at noon, FOX13 Investigator Kirstin Garriss called the facility three different times, trying to talk to with a facility administrator.

FOX13 even sent them a message to the facility’s Facebook page but it hasn’t been active since 2018 and the facility’s website is inactive too.

Johnson said all she wants are answers, but now she’s left with more concerns.

“Of course there’s no one who’s going to accept her with her being COVID-19 and its not safe to move her because of other people or for herself, so I feel like my hands are tied, I really do in knowing which direction I need to take this or what I can do best to help here,” said Johnson.

After three additional calls Thursday morning, FOX13 received an email in the afternoon with the following statement:

At The Highlands of Memphis our highest priority is the well-being of our residents and staff.

Unlike many nursing homes we have made it our policy to test residents and staff that do not have any symptoms of COVID along with those with symptoms.

We feel that the best way to contain this terrible disease is by knowing who is infected. While it may appear that our facility has reported higher than average cases it is not a function of our infection control policies, it is because we are testing everyone and not just symptomatic residents.

We ask the community to lift our staff and residents up in prayer in these unprecedented times. We also strongly urge our neighboring facilities to test ALL residents and staff, once this enemy is no longer invisible the odds of success become greater.

We continue adhering to COVID-19 quarantine precautions put in place by federal and local authorities.

We understand the need to provide test data in a timely matter within national HIPPA regulation, and the State of Tennessee guidelines as it pertains to releasing resident and staff test results to the public.

We are thankful to our residents, families, and front-line staff for their patience and understanding as we are all in this together. We will continue to work to provide our facility with a stable and safe environment under the CDC, World Health Organization, CMS, state and local guidelines.

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