Deaths in Colorado nursing homes continue to climb as COVID-19 infiltrates more facilities.
There are now 148 facilities that house elderly residents with confirmed COVID-19 outbreaks, and a total of 515 deaths of residents from those facilities either from a confirmed case of the disease or a suspected one.
These deaths make up about 57 percent of the state’s total deaths from COVID-19.
Confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection cases among the facilities' residents topped 2,000 this week, while more than 1,600 staff have confirmed or suspected cases. The Cherry Creek Nursing Center in Aurora is now home to the largest outbreak among homes for the elderly in the state, with 30 deaths confirmed or suspected as stemming from COVID-19. The facility has 75 confirmed or probable cases among residents and 49 among staff.
In response to the continued spread of the disease in elder-care facilities, state officials announced the creation of a Residential Care Task Force Wednesday. The task force will focus on preventing outbreaks by providing additional testing and personal protective equipment, while also enforcing infection control procedures.
Key to these efforts is the expansion in testing among asymptomatic residents and staff at nursing homes. State officials have pointed to the spread of COVID-19 among people who show no outward symptoms as one of the primary reasons that so many facilities have outbreaks despite strict visitation rules.
With help of the National Guard, the state has tested nearly 1,900 asymptomatic staff and residents at six large elder-care facilities since April 19. According to the Colorado Division of Security and Emergency Management, state officials will select up to 10 more facilities for a new round of testing. Only facilities without known cases will be included, and large facilities will be prioritized.
For other facilities, the state task force is working on a contract with Colorado State University in order to test thousands of staff at elder-care facilities each week. State officials would not release more details on the arrangement.
Since April 27, the Colorado Department of Health and Environment has stepped up its enforcement of infection control procedures by increasing the number of in-person and virtual surveys of nursing homes by 50 percent.
A public health order signed by Gov. Jared Polis also required all long-term care facilities to submit a plan to respond to COVID-19 by May 1. Nearly all nursing homes have submitted their plans, but according to CDPHE 15 percent of assisted living facilities had not submitted plans as of Wednesday. According to the public health order, facilities that did not submit plans face a fine of up to $1000 and/or a year in jail.