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COVID-19 outbreak confirmed at La Plata County nursing home

Eight residents, three employees test positive as of Monday

An outbreak of COVID-19 cases has been confirmed at a nursing home in La Plata County.

San Juan Basin Public Health said one employee and two residents at Sunshine Gardens Country Home, east of Durango, tested positive Jan. 4. A third employee tested positive Jan. 9.

According to state guidelines, an outbreak is defined as two or more positive cases, transmitted within a workplace, in a 14-day time period.

Over the weekend, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Residential Care Strike Force, tasked with helping nursing homes, became involved. CDPHE did not provide comment Tuesday morning.

On Monday, the total number of people who tested positive was eight residents and three staff members.

A staff member at Sunshine Gardens said Tuesday morning the facility is declining to comment. According to SJBPH, 13 residents live at the nursing home at 2518 Colorado Highway 172, about 6 miles east of Durango.

Tiffany Switzer, operations section chief of the COVID emergency response for SJBPH, said Sunshine Gardens is a memory care facility, where it’s difficult to prevent the virus’ spread because residents have difficulty wearing masks and adhering to isolation requirements.

In November, a similar situation unfolded at Four Corners Health Care Center. As of last Wednesday, 22 residents had died. In total, 94 residents and 53 staff members have tested positive.

“I think that the challenges of having COVID in a long-term care facility poses all the same risks, which is why this facility is working very closely with every resource to take all measures possible to protect their residents,” Switzer said.

Switzer said the vaccination process for residents at Sunshine Gardens had started before the outbreak. It’s unclear, however, how that might affect the outbreak at the facility.

“You never want to be in a situation where you’re racing to (get residents vaccinated),” she said.

According to The COVID Tracking Project, less than 1% of Americans live in long-term care facilities, yet as of Jan. 7, they account for 37% of COVID-19 deaths, about 133,350.

In Colorado, long-term care facilities account for almost 40% of all COVID-19 deaths, about 1,990 people, according to The COVID Tracking Project.


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