COLORADO, USA — In the past couple of months, the Colorado National Guard has deployed to six long-term care facilities across the state to help staff in the middle of debilitating COVID outbreaks.
In some cases, between 30% and 40% of staff members tested positive for the virus, leaving them unable to work taking care of residents.
"Staffing continues to be, if not the number one problem, number one or number two," said Randy Kuykendall, the director of health facilities and emergency medical services division for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).
The Colorado National Guard troops are part of rapid response teams deployed by a newly created residential care strike team. They can be deployed within 24 to 48 hours to a facility when it reports staffing levels are dangerously low.
In some cases, national guard troops helped move residents out of a hard hit facility and into another one with sufficient staffing.
At this time – the state is not identifying which facilities needed help from the National Guard.
"We’re able to put the National Guard troops in there to help with those types of things for a limited period of time until staff starts coming back," said Kuykendall. "They’re not doing hands-on medical care as much as they are performing the variety of functions throughout the facility: meal prep, custodial services, operating the front desk."
CDPHE said around 1,500 deaths from COVID-19 are linked to long-term care facilities in the state. So far, just over 3,600 people have died from COVID-19 in Colorado.
"Our focus is really around prevention, mitigation and supporting the facilities," said Kuykendall. "The level of COVID cases that tend to occur in long-term care facilities happens to be directly correlated to the level of spread in the community."
A lot has improved inside long-term care facilities since the first wave of the virus last fall. Every facility now has the ability to test residents on-site and staff undergoes routine testing. In most cases, PPE is also easier to come by.
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