Elderly Housing Continues to Account for Most Colorado Coronavirus Deaths

April 29, 2020
Mapleton Care Center Coronavirus OutbreakMapleton Care Center Coronavirus OutbreakHart Van Denburg/CPR News
The Mapleton Care Center is one of 131 elder care facilities the state has identified as having an outbreak of coronavirus

At least 131 facilities that house the elderly have outbreaks of COVID-19 —more than half of Colorado's certified nursing facilities, according to new data released Wednesday by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment.

Elder-care facilities now account for 56 percent of the state’s total COVID-19 deaths, with 432 deaths, 91 of which were presumed cases and were not lab-confirmed. At least 1,657 residents of nursing homes have tested positive or contracted presumed cases of COVID-19. 

Outbreaks in nursing homes continue to spread despite state efforts to control infections, including testing all staffers at some of the state’s largest facilities. Since March 12, the state has required nursing homes to eliminate visitation and group activities and to screen staff before their shifts. Gov. Jared Polis has also ordered nursing homes to release isolation plans by May 1.

Facilities that cannot isolate COVID-positive residents will have the option to send them to isolation facilities. 

By mid-May the state hopes to have 200 beds in an isolation unit at St. Anthony’s North Health Campus in Westminster. Centennial Healthcare Center in Greeley is also now housing COVID-positive residents from other facilities in a separate unit. That center was the site of one of the largest outbreaks in the state, but has not seen new cases in several weeks.

While these isolation units are beginning to open up, some facilities have struggled to contain the disease as its spread among staff.

At least 1,435 nursing home staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 or have a presumed infection. One staff member at Julia Temple Healthcare Center in Englewood died. Some facilities have had large portions of their staff infected. Fairacres Manor in Greeley has 46 confirmed or presumed infections among staff, while Juniper Village in Aurora has 36 staff members with confirmed or presumed cases.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Mike Willis, the director of the Colorado Office of Emergency Management, acknowledged that many nursing homes have struggled to secure enough personal protective equipment for its staff.

"They are all under great stress and they are following the standards of care in order to conserve PPE,” he said.

Undetected cases also continue to spread through nursing homes. Last week, the National Guard conducted nearly 900 tests on  residents and staff at three large nursing homes on the Front Range. Though none of the facilities had known outbreaks, the tests revealed 20 positive cases.