Two out of every five of the nursing facilities caring for the oldest and sickest Coloradans have outbreaks of COVID-19, a disease that disproportionately kills older people and those with chronic conditions.
As of Wednesday, 101 of the state’s 235 nursing homes had recorded outbreaks of the new coronavirus, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. So did 122 assisted living facilities, four memory care units and 11 “combined care” facilities serving older people and those with disabilities.
At the worst point of the spring COVID-19 wave, 90 nursing homes reported outbreaks. Nursing facilities drove much of the state’s death toll in that initial wave.
The number of outbreaks in most sectors, including long-term care, has generally tracked with the number of cases reported in the state.
“It’s unfortunate, but not surprising,” said Doug Farmer, president and CEO of the Colorado Health Care Association, which represents most of the state’s nursing homes. “When the spike in the community goes up, so does the spike in health care settings.”
So far, the current outbreaks in nursing homes are linked to 2,833 cases among residents and 2,124 among staff. Two staff members and 328 residents have died.
In assisted living facilities, there are an additional 1,426 cases among residents and 993 among staff. One staff member and 104 residents have died.
Long-term care facilities aren’t the only health care settings dealing with broader spread of the new coronavirus.
Eight hospitals are reporting with outbreaks in at least one group of employees or medical unit, including high-risk settings like the bone-marrow transplant unit on the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus and Penrose-St. Francis Health Services’ neonatal intensive care unit. Three deaths have been linked to hospital COVID-19 outbreaks, all in connection with Penrose’s oncology unit.
The increases come as there are some signs the worst of the fall wave could be passing. On Wednesday, 1,684 people were hospitalized for confirmed or suspected COVID-19, down from 1,995 a week earlier.
An average of 3,540 new COVID-19 cases were reported each of the last three days, down from a high of 5,825 on Nov. 20. Still, cases remain substantially elevated: two months earlier, on Oct. 9, the state was averaging 938 cases per day.
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