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KUNC is here to keep you up-to-date on the news about COVID-19 — the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — Colorado's response to its spread in our state and its impact on Coloradans.

More Than 600 Nursing Home And Vulnerable Residents In Colorado Have COVID-19. Here's Where They Are

Thomas Bjørkan
CC BY-SA 3.0

Of all the COVID-19 deaths in Colorado, 137 so far were residents at nursing homes and other residential care facilities. Another 39 probably died from the virus but never received a test. That's about half the 357 deaths tallied so far across the state, continuing a trend where a large portion of the lives lost to the pandemic involve vulnerable, often elderly, residents at facilities charged with their care.

Fifteen such facilities across the state have outbreaks involving 10 or more residents, and some involve dozens of people. For instance, at Cherry Creek Nursing Center in Aurora, 45 residents have tested positive for COVID-19 along with 18 staffers (17 more staffers are considered probable cases).

Statewide, more than 600 residents in such facilities have tested positive for the coronavirus or are suspected of having it. Roughly an equal number of staffers in the state have the virus or are believed to. Those workers, health officials said, are prevented from working at a facility if confirmed as having the virus or showing any symptoms.

The state also released data on Wednesday for outbreaks at Weld County Jail, the JBS meatpacking plant in Greeley and Cargill Meat Solutions in Fort Morgan. There are 129 positive COVID-19 cases and six deaths at those facilities, combined.

The data, which indicates just how pervasive the coronavirus has become at institutions, is the most in-depth provided by state officials since Gov. Jared Polis declared a state of emergency in response to the pandemic more than a month ago. At a press conference on Wednesday, Polis said the data is meant to increase transparency for "better protection of the public."

Polis added that the data would provide more insight about outbreaks at facilities.

Until now, details about outbreaks were pieced together by news organizations looking at specific cases. For instance, Centennial Healthcare Center, a nursing home in Greeley, confirmed to KUNC earlier this week 21 deaths (17 for residents that tested positive for COVID-19 and four suspected cases not tested postmortem).

"We know that this is an unsettling and scary time for our residents and their family members," said Centennial Healthcare Center's Annaliese Impink in a statement. "We understand and greatly appreciate family members' concern for their loved ones and are doing all we can to keep our residents safe and protected."

Read More: Nursing, Residential Facilities Account For 40% Of Colorado Deaths, But Details Still Lacking

The governor said the state will release detailed information on facilities weekly, including names of homes, deaths and positive cases among residents and staffers.

At the moment, the state is tracking active outbreaks at 79 nursing and residential care facilities. That's up from 68 a week ago. There are 231 nursing facilities, 706 assisted living facilities, and 21 intermediate care facilities across the state, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

An outbreak is defined as a period when two or more residents in a facility test positive for COVID-19 or when two or more residents have a fever or respiratory symptoms in addition to at least one lab-confirmed case of the virus.

Most of the nursing and other residential facilities that have confirmed COVID-19 among staff have also reported a death, according to the data.

State health officials did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

However, earlier this week state and local health officials told KUNC about efforts to coordinate with facilities that face outbreaks, with a focus on containing the virus, improving infection prevention practices, even turning areas into wards to treat those who are ill or displaying symptoms.

Other preventative measures at facilities include assessments for workers before they start shifts, including taking their temperatures. This is in addition to restrictions on all but essential visitors, barring even families.

Officials have said they are working to bring more protections to homes, including making testing more readily available, which would help isolate cases faster and slow the virus' spread. The state is also working to get more personal protective equipment to facilities.

As investigative reporter for KUNC, I take tips from our audience and, well, investigate them. I strive to go beyond the obvious, to reveal new facts, to go in-depth and to bring new perspectives and personalities to light.
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