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COVID-19 cases at nursing homes, senior-care centers account for nearly half of all COVID-19 deaths in Colorado

At least 246 people have died after testing positive for COVID-19 while living at a health care facility like a nursing home or long-term care center

COLORADO, USA — The numbers tell a clear story of just how deadly COVID-19 is, especially behind the walls of health care facilities like nursing homes and long-term senior care centers.

Nearly half of all the deaths related to COVID-19 in Colorado are residents inside senior care facilities and health care centers. At least 246 residents have died, according to numbers released Wednesday by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Another 76 deaths are considered probably related to the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, but lab tests have not yet confirmed COVID-19. 

Residents and staff inside senior care facilities and healthcare centers account for more than 14% of all confirmed positive cases in the state.

A total of 880 residents have a confirmed positive COVID-19 test and 599 staff members have confirmed cases

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Some of the worst outbreaks include:

  • Cherry Creek Nursing Center in Aurora: 18 residents have died and 46 others have tested positive. At least 30 staff members have also tested positive. 
  • Centennial Health Care Center in Greeley: 17 residents have died and 32 others have tested positive for COVID-19. 20 staff members also have confirmed positive tests.
  • Juniper Village in Aurora: 7 residents have died and another 35 have confirmed COVID-19 cases. 31 staff members have also tested positive for the disease.
  • Orchard Park Health Care Center in Greenwood Village: 2 residents have died and 32 others have tested positive for the disease. 20 staff members also have confirmed positive cases. 
  • The Julia Temple Healthcare Center in Arapahoe County: 1 confirmed COVID-19 death in a staff member. 15 other staff members have tested positive.

The cases at Orchard Park were reported publicly by the state for the first time Wednesday, eight days after the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said they learned about an outbreak at the facility. The state said they release information about outbreaks once a week. 

When asked why Orchard Park was not included in the list of outbreaks on April 15, a day after the state said they were made aware of the outbreak, a spokesperson for the state said the information lags by 24 hours. 

Jim Wilson said his mother, Joyce, stayed at the Orchard Park facility for rehabilitation after a fall until she was told she completed the treatment and could leave. 

That was on April 5, well before a spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said they were made aware of an outbreak at the Greenwood Village facility.

A day later he said she was admitted to the hospital and tested positive for COVID-19. She died a week later. While the facility said it is informing the families of all residents about positive cases, Wilson said he was never told about the outbreak, even after his mother died.  

"I think we should have been told when she was in there. She should have been tested when she was in there," said Wilson. "They should inform all future, current and past residents of what’s going on."

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In a statement, Orchard Park Health Care Center wrote: "Through its management company, Orchard Park has been able to acquire numerous testing kits not available locally, and has been testing its residents, resulting in the identification of positive COVID-19 findings. Orchard Park believes this information is allowing it to provide excellent care to its existing residents and to protect residents who have not tested positive." 

The statement also reads in-part, "The facility will soon be receiving multiple highly sought after HealthySole UV lights which sanitize the soles of all staff members’ shoes upon entering and exiting the facility. Orchard Park has also been able to acquire and has been using all appropriate Personal Protective Equipment including N95 masks, disposable gloves, gowns and protective face masks." 

Outbreaks in the state are not limited to senior care facilities or health care centers. The number of positive COVID-19 cases at the JBS plant in Greeley is now up to 102. There are also several jails across the state with confirmed cases.

State data shows at-least one "resident" at the Weld County jail has died after testing positive for COVID-19. 

You can read the full statement given to 9NEWS from Clear Choice Health Care, which operates Orchard Park Health Care Center, below. 

First, we want to applaud the everyday heroes at Orchard Park and the other area nursing homes for stepping up and, through selfless sacrifice, are providing excellent care to our most vulnerable Americans, also known as the Greatest Generation. While hospital and emergency personnel are often justifiably in the spotlight for their services, it is equally important during this pandemic, which is having a significant effect on our nation’s older population, to recognize and appreciate the amazing efforts of the nurses, CNAs and other caregivers in our elderly care facilities.

Like many other nursing homes in the country, Orchard Park has been impacted by COVID19. The facility began implementing aggressive infection control measures well over a month ago, and was the first nursing home in the State of Colorado to limit access to the facility by anyone other than staff, residents and critical third parties. All staff are screened at the beginning of each shift and residents are continuously monitored for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. Because there is nothing more important to us than the safety and welfare of our patients and staff, Orchard Park also acquired and is using a very expensive state of the art UV cleaning system that disinfects against numerous bacteria and viruses including the COVID-19 virus. The facility will soon be receiving multiple highly sought after HealthySole UV lights which sanitize the soles of all staff members’ shoes upon entering and exiting the facility. Orchard Park has also been able to acquire and has been using all appropriate Personal Protective Equipment including N95 masks, disposable gloves, gowns and protective face masks. However, the gowns are becoming increasingly difficult to secure, so if any of your readers have access to sources with additional gowns, we would really appreciate it if they could let us know.

We are and have been working closely with the facility’s Medical Director, Infectious Disease Doctor and communicating regularly with the Department of Health and State Epidemiologist. Despite these ongoing efforts, Orchard Park has had both residents and employees test positive over the last 9 days. Orchard Park has worked collaboratively with the State and has timely reported all results as they have become available in accordance with the CDC and State Health Department guidelines. We admit patients and have employees who have been in other health care facilities including other skilled nursing homes and area hospitals. Patients are not tested when leaving these other health care sites, unless they present with signs and symptoms. We have a rigorous screening process ruling out admission by anyone with signs and symptoms, but unfortunately, given the unique reality of this virus, people can carry it without showing any symptoms.

In an effort to provide treatment to patients BEFORE the virus has had an irreversible effect, Orchard Park has taken a very aggressive, and in Colorado, unprecedented approach with testing for COVID-19. As recent data is showing, there is a large majority of asymptomatic people who test positive and never show any signs or symptoms of being sick. Through its management company, Orchard Park has been able to acquire numerous testing kits not available locally, and has been testing its residents, resulting in the identification of positive COVID-19 findings. Orchard Park believes this information is allowing it to provide excellent care to its existing residents and to protect residents who have not tested positive. We realize that this aggressive approach may result in higher numbers by comparison; our residents and employees are part of our family, and we felt that their safety was far more important than having to report some higher statistics.

We are committed to caring for and protecting our patients and staff during this difficult time. We communicate regularly with all of our families and very much appreciate the support they have provided to our staff as we work tirelessly to care for their loved ones.

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