DENVER (KDVR) — Colorado’s assisted care facilities are seeing twice as many outbreaks now as in the past, adding suspense for a state expecting a COVID-19 surge as early as next week.
Though only 8% of the state’s COVID-19 cases, Coloradans over 70 account for more than three-fourths of the state’s COVID-19 deaths.
Nationally, these facilities have proven some of the deadliest ground for COVID-19 infections, though knowledge of the virus and of treatment methods has drastically reduced the nationwide case fatality rate.
November was the heaviest month on record for assisted care facility outbreaks. The number of outbreaks from November alone is greater than the combined amount from the next three heaviest months: April, May and October.
Only three days into December, Colorado has already surpassed the number of assisted care facility outbreaks in June and August. At 51 cases to June’s 43, the first three days of December has also surpassed the amount of infections from assisted facility outbreaks in June.
These outbreaks took time to work their way into assisted care facilities.
Assisted care facilities were among the nation’s largest concern when the pandemic hit in March.
The Trump administration directed Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) to severely restrict entry to assisted care facilities on March 13.
“As we learn more about the coronavirus from experts on the ground, we’ve learned that seniors with multiple conditions are at highest risk for infection and complications, so CMS is using every tool at our disposal to keep nursing homes free from infection,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma at the time.
Colorado’s assisted care cases have surged far beyond what they were in the early pandemic months.
COVID-19 cases began to skyrocket statewide in October. The daily counts of assisted care outbreaks did not swell to record-breaking numbers until late October, roughly 3-4 weeks after the statewide spike.
This same situation may occur with the state’s potential post-Thanksgiving spike.
During a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment press conference today, state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said the earliest signs of a holiday spike would begin Monday.
“After holidays we have seen a bump in numbers,” she said. “We’ll start to see earliest case around Dec. 7 from the Thanksgiving holiday. We’re hoping to not see a significant increase, but it is possible and we are watching carefully.”