A coronavirus outbreak at the Aspen Living Center in Colorado Springs continues to grow weeks after it was initially reported, becoming one of the largest outbreaks among long-term care facilities in the city and infecting a total of 37 residents and 14 staff.
Aspen Living Center spokeswoman Annaliese Impink said in an email to The Gazette the growing numbers are linked to an initial outbreak reported Oct. 5, when four staff members and 20 residents were first identified as positive for COVID-19, county outbreak data show. Since then, the virus has infected half of the long-term care facility’s total population of 73 residents and almost a quarter of its 68 staff members.
Impink said since Oct. 5, 18 residents who tested positive for COVID-19 are still ill and are quarantining in a separate unit “not mixed with the general public.” One of the residents who tested positive is being treated at a hospital. The additional 19 residents who tested positive for the disease have since recovered, she said.
Additionally, 14 total staff members have tested positive for the disease since the initial outbreak was reported, Impink said. Six of them have recovered from the virus and the remaining eight are still quarantining.
“All staff members were asymptomatic, except two who had very mild symptoms,” Impink said by email. “Most of the residents and staff had very mild symptoms.”
The next largest outbreak at a long-term care facility in Colorado Springs was at Bear Creek Senior Living, where 19 staff members and 29 visitors or residents were confirmed positive for COVID-19 when the outbreak was reported Sept. 11.
The increase in cases at Aspen Living Center mirrors surging coronavirus cases across the country. As of Tuesday, El Paso County’s incidence rate was 268.8 cases per 100,000 people over a 14-day period and the county positivity rate, the percentage of positive results among those tested, was 6.42% — the highest case rate since the start of the pandemic, county data show.
With cases climbing, Gov. Jared Polis and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment last week gave El Paso County until Friday to come up with a mitigation plan to avoid increased restrictions.
Impink said Aspen Living Center continues to take precautions as it receives additional guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other experts.
Aspen Living Center officials contact the physicians of all residents showing signs and symptoms of respiratory illness or who have tested positive for COVID-19, and places together residents with similar symptoms to manage spread of the virus, she said.
Staff are required to wear personal protective equipment throughout their shift. Staff are also dedicated to units where symptomatic residents or residents who have tested positive for the disease are located, with designated equipment offered at the unit to limit the virus’ spread, Impink said.
Additionally, residents and staff are being tested and all third-party physicians, nurses and hospice staff are screened to ensure they have appropriate personal protective equipment prior to their visits, Impink said. Resident outings have been limited to only those that are medically necessary; visitation has been restricted until further notice from El Paso County Public Health; and all staff are screened and have their temperatures taken at the start of each shift. Staff members exhibiting signs and symptoms of the virus are sent home to self-quarantine, Impink said.
As of Tuesday, a database of coronavirus outbreaks in El Paso County did not show updated outbreak numbers at Aspen Living Center. Instead, county data still show only four staff and 20 residents have been confirmed positive for COVID-19.
“Outbreaks are complex and highly evolving situations — we should have updated information available on this facility next week,” El Paso County Public Health spokeswoman Michelle Hewitt said by email Friday.
A state database of coronavirus outbreaks in Colorado also did not show updated outbreak numbers at the facility Tuesday, reporting that five staff and 20 residents have been confirmed positive for the disease.
The state's outbreak data is updated each Wednesday at 4 p.m., "with information provided to public health by the facilities with the outbreak," a spokeswoman for the state's Department of Public Health and Environment joint information center said in an email Tuesday.
"If a specific case isn’t reflected in our tracker it was not reported to us prior to our Wednesday data posting deadline. Cases are added once interviewed and identified as part of the outbreak."
El Paso County Public Health is leading the investigation and is working with the facility on mitigation strategies, she said.