Colorado’s veteran living centers prevented COVID-19 better than similar facilities, audit finds

senior covid vaccine
Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post, Pool
Registered nurse Ola Arije, left, administers a COVID-19 vaccine to Army Veteran Phil Ross, 73, at Veterans Community Living Center at Fitzsimons in Aurora, Colorado on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020.

Colorado’s Veterans Community Living Centers have done a better job of preventing the spread of COVID-19 in their facilities, compared with similar facilities, according to a report released by the Colorado State Auditor’s Office. The report was compiled after a performance audit of the five state-owned living centers, which provide long-term, short-term and memory care services to honorably discharged veterans and their spouses, as well as “Gold Star” parents and children.

One of the living centers came under fire early in the pandemic for not being able to control outbreaks of the virus. 

Auditors were tasked to determine if the living centers implemented federally and state-required COVID-19 infection prevention measures, which included daily antigen tests and weekly PCR tests for staff, the use of personal protective equipment, and frequent sanitizing of hands and surfaces.

All of the living centers were found compliant with the measures and they resulted in decreased infections, deaths and length of outbreaks, according to the report. 

The living centers have had infection rates among residents that are nearly four times lower than similar types of healthcare facilities. Overall, Colorado’s COVID-19 deaths at nursing homes ranked among the worst in the nation. A CPR News investigation found Colorado had the worst rate of death per occupied nursing home bed in the U.S. between Thanksgiving and Christmas last year, twice the national average. 

Between March 2020 and August 2021, the five living centers recorded 266 staff cases of and 174 resident cases. All 58 COVID-19 deaths during that time were among residents.