Senior Homes Prove To Be Hotspots In Coronavirus Crisis

Centennial Health Care in Greeley
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Centennial Healthcare Center in Greeley, April 3, 2020.

At least 37 people have died of coronavirus infections in nursing homes and senior living facilities in Colorado. That’s more than a quarter of the 126 total deaths the state reported on Saturday, though the most recent deaths at senior centers may not yet be reflected in the state’s official total.  

Colorado Public Radio identified 27 senior-living facilities in Colorado with at least one case of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus. At least 21 of those facilities have an outbreak, which is defined as having two or more cases. 

The respiratory disease is particularly serious among the elderly, with 101 out of Colorado’s 126 fatalities being people 70 or older. And data collected from county health officials and individual care centers show that senior-care facilities represent a large portion of the death toll in some counties. 

In El Paso County, which is tied with Weld County for the most deaths officially recorded from COVID-19 by the state, senior-living facilities represent more than a quarter of all fatalities. Michelle Hewitt, a public health information officer for the county, confirmed a total of six deaths split between two Colorado Springs facilities, Laurel Manor Care Center and Morningstar at Mountain Shadows.

In Weld County, about one-third of the county’s 22 confirmed deaths are concentrated in one facility. The Centennial Healthcare Center in Greeley reported seven deaths and 23 total cases as of Saturday. Annaliese Impink, a senior vice president at Sava Senior Care, which runs 25 senior-living facilities in Colorado, reported the seventh death this morning.

“The Centers continue to screen all staff prior to beginning their shift,” Impink said in a statement. “They also continue to screen all outside essential healthcare personnel prior to every visit.” 

Eric Aako, a spokesperson with the Weld County Health Department, declined to name other facilities in Weld County experiencing outbreaks, but confirmed a 9News report from Thursday that at least nine people total had died at senior-care facilities in the county.

Libby Bortz Assisted Living facility in Littleton has also emerged as a hotspot. Four people from the facility have died from COVID-19, according to the Tri-County Health Department, which covers Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties. According to Kimberly DeCero, a spokesperson for Libby Bortz, one of the deaths counted by the county and state was only epidemiologically linked to COVID-19, meaning that the person who died was never tested for COVID-19. The state has included suspected COVID-19 deaths like this one, without confirmation in their final count.

Another center with several known fatalities related to COVID-19 is the North Shore Health & Rehab Facility in Loveland. Four people from the facility have died, as confirmed by Katie O’Donnell with the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment. Two of the victims tested positive for COVID-19 before they died. The other two cases are epidemiologically linked to COVID-19, meaning that the victims exhibited symptoms, but were not tested.

Saturday afternoon, Boulder County health officials confirmed the death from COVID-19 of a person in their 90s at a long-term care facility. An emailed press release acknowledged the spread of COVID-19 within senior-living facilities in the state.

“While no visitors have been permitted at long-term care facilities since March 13, we urge anyone coming into these communities for work or to deliver needed items to wear a mask, perform excellent hand hygiene, and stay away if they are ill,” Gina Bare, the Boulder County Public Health COVID response infection control branch manager, said in the release. “We are working closely with our long-term care partners to make sure they have the supplies they need, including CDC guidance for the extended use of supplies.”

County spokesperson Chana Goussetis said that this was the only death in the county to take place in a senior-care facility, and would not release the name of the facility.

Other facilities that have known deaths related to COVID-19 include Amberwood Court Rehabilitation and Care Community, which has two fatalities, and Denver North Care Center, which has one. Both are in Denver and operated by Vivage Senior Living. That company runs several dozen other facilities in Colorado, including Fairacres Manor in Greeley, where there has been a COVID-19 outbreak, according to CDPHE. Cynthia Coenen, a spokesperson for Vivage, declined to release the number of cases or deaths at Fairacres Manor.

Four other Denver facilities have reported one death each from COVID-19: the Jewell Care Center, which is run by Sava Senior Care; Sunrise at Cherry Creek; The Center at Lowry; and Windsor Gardens.

Tri-County Health Department also reported four other deaths at centers in the counties it covers: one at RiverPointe Senior Living in Littleton, one at Abundant Blessings and Care in Centennial, and two at Inglenook in Brighton.

Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center in Salida confirmed one additional death at the town’s Columbine Manor Care Center. 

Overall, Colorado’s 126 known fatalities include 15 that were newly reported by the state on Saturday. Colorado is on track to double the number of deaths from the coronavirus in five days or more, a much more hopeful pace than the three days it has been taking for deaths to double in hot spots like New York.

One of the most widely used models for tracking the spread of the illness, developed by the University of Washington, forecast Colorado to report 23 to 26 deaths Saturday.

But a few days of lower-than-expected numbers, while reason for optimism, are far from conclusive, and the state has encouraged residents to remain at home and wear masks for essential trips.

CLARIFICATION: This story was changed to add that one of the deaths at Libby Bortz was epidemiologically to COVID-19 and not a confirmed case.