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Over 130 COVID cases, 3 deaths at Durango nursing home

More deaths expected in coming days, health officials say
An outbreak of COVID-19 cases at Four Corners Health Care Center has caused more than 80 residents and 48 staff members to test positive for the virus. Three residents have died.

A massive outbreak of COVID-19 cases has struck a Durango nursing home, with three residents already reported dead, and health officials expecting more deaths in coming days.

An outbreak of COVID-19 cases was first reported Nov. 23 at Four Corners Health Care Center after three residents and two staff members tested positive.

In the weeks since, the virus has ravaged through the nursing home, causing those numbers to skyrocket. An updated case count Thursday showed 84 residents and 48 staff members testing positive, according to state records.

On Wednesday, it was reported that two people had died from COVID-19 as a result of the outbreak, state records show. On Thursday, a third death was reported.

Four Corners Health Care Center did not respond to requests seeking comment.

Liane Jollon, executive director of San Juan Basin Public Health, said that because nursing homes have been identified as a priority population by the state of Colorado, when outbreaks occur, they work with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s infection prevention team.

A spokesperson with CDPHE said the department “has provided consultation to the local health department and facility, including expertise on infection prevention.”

In November when cases were first confirmed at the nursing home, CDPHE stepped in to provide Four Corners Health Care Center with all the resources it would need to work on infection control, isolate residents and provide testing.

But it appears the virus spread silently through the facility, likely before the first cases were even confirmed, Jollon said.


“Even if you have protocols in good shape, if it spread silently a week or two before you catch it, by the time you start testing, you could find out it’s everywhere in the facility,” she said. “That’s potentially what happened here.”

It is most likely, as has happened with other nursing home facility outbreaks, that a staff member or visitor contracted the virus outside the home and unknowingly brought the virus into the center, Jollon said.

“When there’s this much spread in the community, and staff members are always going in and out, there’s the potential for silent spread,” she said. “And that’s why community spread has such an important bearing on what happens to our priority populations.”

La Plata County’s COVID-19 case count has seen a dramatic rise in the past few weeks. On Nov. 1, La Plata County reported 433 total cases. As of Thursday, that number stood at 1,821 positive cases, more than four times as many.

Four Corners Health Care Center has about 100 residents, Jollon said, all of whom are elderly and some have pre-existing medical conditions that could exacerbate issues with COVID-19.

It is unknown how many people work at the facility.

Health officials do have a plan should the situation worsen at Four Corners Health Care Center and more people start requiring a higher level of care and more fatalities start to occur.

Brian Devine said a plan was drafted early on in the pandemic should a surge of hospitalizations threaten to max out capacity at local health care facilities.

In response, health officials will look to increase capacity at existing facilities, such as Mercy Regional Medical Center and Animas Surgical Hospital, should there be a need for increased care in the coming days.

The issue is not with available beds, but rather available staff to care for patients, Devine said. However, it may be possible for health care facilities to draw on additional staff or possibly receive relief from state agencies, if needed.

The preference, Devine said, is to keep patients within the community, rather than transport them to an out-of-region facility, though there is a plan in place should the need arise.

It’s also important to not introduce the virus into more facilities when transporting patients, Devine said.

“This is certainly what we all worked really hard on and hoped to avoid,” he said.

Jollon did not have more specifics about the incident, saying much of that information should come from Four Corners Health Care Center or CDPHE.

According to a recent report by 9News, COVID-19 is sweeping through Colorado nursing homes and senior care facilities, with an estimated 200 outbreaks in these types of facilities based on state data. In fact, nearly a quarter of all active outbreaks are happening in nursing homes, 9News reported.

At a nursing home in Castle Rock, 23 people have died since an outbreak started Oct. 16. So far, 94 residents and 79 staff members at the facility have confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to 9News.

An outbreak of COVID-19 cases at Four Corners Health Care Center has caused more than 80 residents and 48 staff members to test positive for the virus. Three residents have died.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people older than 85 are most at-risk for severe illness. In the U.S., about 80% of reported COVID-19 deaths have occurred in patients age 65 and older.

Some underlying medical conditions, the CDC says, also increase the risk for severe illness or death for people of any age with COVID-19.

“Long-term care facilities serve older adults and persons with complex medical conditions,” according to the CDC. “COVID-19 can spread rapidly in these congregate settings, resulting in high rates of morbidity and mortality.”


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