As of Wednesday, 93 Colorado nursing homes reported outbreaks of COVID-19, surpassing a grim record set in mid-May.
Outbreaks in long-term care facilities drove much of Colorado’s death toll from the virus in the spring. At the high-water mark on May 13, a total of 90 nursing homes had active outbreaks, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
The number of outbreaks in those settings fell in the summer as older ones burned out and the virus began popping up more in locations like shops and restaurants. But in the last three weeks, the number of outbreaks in nursing homes has more than doubled.
It’s possible some outbreaks detected now would have gone unnoticed in the spring, because less-seriously ill people weren’t always tested.
The outbreaks that are currently active are larger, on average, than those in May, with 42.5 cases per facility. The outbreaks have caused an average of 2.5 deaths per facility, which is lower than in May, but the death toll could increase before they’re deemed over.
Doug Farmer, president and CEO of the Colorado Health Care Association, said nursing homes have better access to tests and personal protective equipment than they did in the spring, but they can only do so much to keep the virus out. Staff live in the community, and even with screening and regular testing, some bring the virus in before they know they’re sick, he said.
“We really need everyone to be following these public health guidelines,” like wearing masks and avoiding gatherings, he said.
Outbreaks also have increased in the last three weeks in most settings tracked by the state, including assisted living facilities, child care centers, schools, correctional facilities, factories, offices, outpatient health facilities and retail stores.
Outbreaks in restaurants increased for two weeks, then leveled out, perhaps reflecting recent bans on indoor dining along most of the Front Range.
Even previously hard-hit places aren’t being spared in the fall wave. JBS’s meatpacking plant in Greeley has 32 new cases this month, and 46 cases have been linked to JBS’s corporate offices in Weld County since October.
The plant had 295 confirmed and probable cases and six deaths between April and October. Five people in the corporate office were infected and one died in an outbreak in May.
Cargill’s meatpacking plant in Morgan County also reported a second outbreak in November. Others hit for a second time last month including 33 nursing homes, 24 assisted living facilities, eight schools, two homeless shelters, Crowley County Correctional Facility, a grocery store and the Colorado Springs Police Department.
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