As coronavirus cases continued to spread around north Alabama, the Senior Rehab and Recovery Center (SRRC) at the Limestone Health Facility in Athens decided everyone should be tested to create a baseline.
When the results of the tests started coming in, Precious Fowlkes said she got a pit in her stomach when she learned her mother, Eva Jackson, was positive for the virus.
"I mean just hearing that was just definitely devastating," Fowlkes said.
Jackson became a resident of the center about eight months ago. Fowlkes said after her mother tested positive a couple of weeks ago, the center did another round of follow-up tests. On Friday, she learned her mother was no longer positive.
"I really just got the news today that she had a negative test. So this is one of those days that has brought some very exciting news," Fowlkes said.
According to guidance shared with residents and family members, and obtained by WAAY 31, the facility is in the tail end of "the first round of second step testing for positive residents as per CDC guidance. For the resident to be deemed recovered from the virus, they must have two negative tests greater than 24 hours apart."
Fowlkes said she is now waiting for her mother to get that second test, but is optimistic.
"I still don't know what the second test will show, but at least it shows that maybe she's moving into that positive direction of getting out of quarantine," Fowlkes said.
A spokesperson with the center confirmed that as of Friday, 56 residents out of 123 had tested positive along with 21 staff members. Data published through the CDC's National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) show's that during the reporting week ending on July 5, a resident at the SRRC died from coronavirus.
The NHSN defines a "reporting week" as running from Monday through Sunday.
A facility spokesman said they're following guidelines from the CDC and the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), which include restricting in-person visitation. Fowlkes said the process has been harder for some families than others.
"Not everyone is doing as well as my family and my mother. Some people are extremely devastated because they are not able to communicate with their loved ones and it is taking a toll on their patients or the residents," Fowlkes said.
The facility is providing regular updates to family members regarding the situation with coronavirus. The center in Athens isn't alone in its struggle with coronavirus.
According to data from the NHSN, five facilities in Limestone and Morgan counties have shown either residents, staff or both that have tested positive for the virus.
A representative of the SRRC said they have shuffled their staff around to make up for a shortage of certified nursing assistants. He said that is an issue not just at their facility, but ones across the country.
WAAY 31 reached out to the ADPH to see if there were any future plans for the Alabama National Guard to conduct more cleanings at any nursing homes or rehab facilities in north Alabama.
Dr. Karen Landers said in a statement that they "cannot discuss communicable disease investigations of specific facilities." She said that as of Wednesday, long-term care facilities were given a list of companies that specialize in coronavirus cleaning.
In the meantime, Fowlkes said she's thinking of not only the residents, like her mother, but the staff and their families as well. She hopes that the statewide mask mandate will help to slow the community spread of the virus and make facilities, like the one that houses her mother, safer.
"I think that now that it's a mandate within the entire state, that will also help with just that general spread, which seems to be creeping more and more into facilities like nursing homes," Fowlkes said.