Colorado and local health officials are investigating an Aurora senior-care center where the majority of residents and staff have tested positive for the new coronavirus and eight residents have died.
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Nearly three-quarters of the residents — 33 of 46 — at Juniper Village at Aurora have tested positive for the virus, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said Saturday. Additionally, 16 of 25 staff members have coronavirus.
Of the eight residents who have died, five deaths were confirmed as related to COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus. The three others are presumed by the local coroner to be the result of the disease.
Juniper Village is the latest nursing home or senior-care facility in Colorado to deal with an outbreak of coronavirus. There are outbreaks of the disease at roughly 60 complexes across the state for the elderly and for people with dementia or disabilities.
There are at least 72 coronavirus-related deaths among residents of senior care centers, according to research by The Colorado Sun that involved calling the facilities and local health departments.
The state health department has refused previous media requests for statewide data regarding cases of the new coronavirus and deaths at senior-care centers. But on Saturday, while announcing the outbreak at Juniper Village, state officials said they would now provide regular, detailed updates about outbreaks at such facilities.
According to The Sun’s tally, about one-third of deaths in Colorado from the virus are occurring among residents of nursing homes and senior facilities. A Weld County facility, Centennial Healthcare Center, has had at least 14 residents die of the virus. As many as five other deaths at the facility are under investigation.
Libby Bortz Assisted Living Center in Littleton has reported the deaths of five residents, four of whom were confirmed to have COVID-19 and one who was suspected.
In addition, 9News reported that there have been 11 deaths of residents of Cherry Creek Nursing Center, also in Aurora. Eight other deaths of residents were suspected of being related to the virus but were not confirmed, the television station reported.
Cherry Creek did not respond to a request for comment Saturday from The Colorado Sun. The deaths at Cherry Creek would raise the total COVID-19 deaths among senior-care centers in Colorado to at least 83.
Residents of senior-living facilities and their relatives have said they felt left in the dark about the outbreaks and wished public health officials would provide more data. Some said they wanted the information in order to decide whether to move out.
Gov. Jared Polis has also called for more transparency around deaths and infections as senior-care facilities.
Polis said Friday that restrictions about who can enter the centers are likely to last long after other orders limiting Coloradans’ movement to slow the spread of the coronavirus are lifted.
“The early steps to keep it out of those centers are so important. Those are likely to continue even after the stay-at-home order ends — well beyond that,” he told reporters. “In fact, I would even predict that as long as this virus is present and before there’s a vaccine or definitive cure, there’s likely to be major restrictions on movement in and out of those facilities. Meaning, real limits on visitation. Meaning that it’s unlikely the whole extended family gets to go visit grandma or grandpa in the foreseeable future. One-person visitation. Temperature checks.”
State health officials said Saturday that they are coordinating with Tri-County Health Department officials to investigate the outbreak at Juniper Village. The owner of the facility, New Jersey-based Juniper Communities, “decided to proactively test all staff and residents” through a private lab after several staff had tested positive for COVID-19, according to a CDPHE.
CDPHE’s Health Facilities Division conducted a site visit on April 2 after receiving a formal complaint regarding the facility’s infection prevention practices, the state says.
“We know that the populations in these facilities are among the most vulnerable and are at highest risk of severe illness from this virus,” state epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy said in a written statement. “The department is doing everything we can to be as transparent as possible regarding reporting outbreaks to keep people safe while protecting patient privacy.”
The state will begin releasing more details about outbreaks, including facility name and number of cases, on Wednesday, the release said. Information will be updated online each week, officials said.
The statement marked a shift in policy. State officials previously said it was up to local health departments to release the information — some did and others did not — and that data about deaths should not include addresses.
Juniper Communities owns 22 senior care properties in three states, including five in Colorado. A request for comment from Juniper Communities was not immediately returned on Saturday.