The reported number of outbreaks of COVID-19 in Larimer County slowed this week even as the county's cases remain high, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story.
Three new outbreaks of COVID-19 in Larimer County were reported by the state this week — totaling 11 cases — at two assisted living centers and a memory care facility: Eagle's Nest Assisted Living, Seneca House Assisted Living in Fort Collins and Seven Lakes Memory care.
However, Larimer County Department of Health and Environment spokesperson Kori Wilford said that not all outbreaks being reported to the county have been included on the state’s list recently.
Although local public health officials have maintained capacity to investigate cases, the surge of the omicron variant has made it difficult for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to keep up.
“The state has only been able — because of this surge — they've only been able to report outbreaks for what they call the six priority settings,” Wilford said. “Right now they're only verifying and posting health care, correctional settings, highly mobile populations … schools, critical infrastructure and tribes and Native communities.”
Highly mobile populations include people experiencing homelessness and migrant agriculture workers, and critical infrastructure includes workplace settings where workers' tasks are necessary to maintain a critical community service, according to a state health department spokesperson.
He added that while there isn't a specific timeline for the state to begin tracking all outbreaks again, they anticipate "public health officials across the state will be able to move away from this prioritization as case volume declines."
Wilford said there were about 20 outbreaks reported to the county in the last two weeks that haven’t yet been verified and included on the state’s list, most of which have been at businesses.
When the state gets back to logging all outbreaks reported rather than just the six key areas, outbreaks will likely rise quite a bit.
“It's kind of like an artificial decrease, that's going to look like an artificial increase," Wilford said.
The county health department is continuing to investigate outbreaks, so even though they aren’t in the state’s database these outbreaks are working toward resolution and putting mitigation measures in place.
A business or facility does not come off the list until 28 days after the onset of symptoms of the last case, according to the county's outbreak reporting form. In a residential health care setting, an outbreak isn't resolved until no new cases of COVID-19 are identified for a period of at least 14 days since the most recent positive result.
Larimer County currently has 73 active outbreaks, with one of those (at Walmart's distribution center in Loveland) dating back to fall 2020.
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Assisted living, memory care outbreaks
Seven staff tested positive at Seven Lakes Memory Care in Loveland. Spokesperson Constance Sablan said after one employee had symptoms, another learned they had been exposed outside of the community. Employees and residents were then tested and seven staff came back positive. All seven had been cleared and returned to work as of Thursday, Sablan said.
Of the seven, five were fully vaccinated. The other two have exemptions for religious or personal reasons and are tested daily, per state protocol.
Seven Lakes has 50 staff members and 45 residents; 94% of residents are fully vaccinated and 67% have received boosters. Of the 50 staff members, 86% are vaccinated and 50% are boosted, Sablan said. Others are awaiting their eligibility. A new hire, for example, who just got vaccinated needs to wait six months to get boosted.
"There's not much of a story to tell," Sablan said. "It just seems to be the way of life these days." To satisfy the state mandate for testing, Seven Lakes is testing twice weekly until it gets two consecutive negative reports. The facility is still awaiting test results from Tuesday's testing and will test again Friday.
"We’ve met and mastered outbreaks by following the infection control protocols we have in place — testing, monitoring, N95 masking, ongoing sanitizing of common areas and following public health guidelines," Sablan said. "Like I said, it’s becoming a bit old hat. While we exercise caution, our focus is on providing the lifestyle our residents enjoy, and most definitely deserve."
Seneca House and Eagle's Nest reported two cases each, with Seneca House's cases both being among staff and Eagle's Nest's cases including one staff and one resident, according to outbreak data. The state considers an outbreak at a nursing home to be two or more cases in a 14-day period.
Where is Larimer County with the mask mandate metrics?
As of data pulled from the Larimer County's COVID-19 dashboard Thursday afternoon, Larimer County did not meet any of the four metrics required by health officials to end the county's mask mandate.
In its October public health order, the county cited the following benchmarks that needed to be met for 21 days before the mandate could be rescinded: fewer than 65 COVID patients in Larimer County hospitals; ICU utilization at less than 90% of usual levels; a seven-day case rate per 100,000 of less than 300; and a seven-day positivity rate of less than 10%.
As of information posted on the dashboard Friday, 95 COVID-19 patients were being treated in Larimer hospitals, intensive care units in county hospitals were at 95% capacity and the seven-day case rate per 100,000 residents was 1,144. The county had a seven-day positivity rate of 24.4%.
Although numbers remain high, Wilford said it does look like we're at or going to start coming down from that peak. She added that in other countries and areas that have seen a decline, it tends to be "rapid" once it begins.
See how the county's metrics have aligned with those metrics since Oct. 20, the day the mandate went into effect, in the graph below. Learn more about COVID-19 in Larimer County, including the county's vaccination rates, in this story.
COVID-19 outbreaks in Larimer County
Note: Asterisks indicate outbreaks newly reported since data released on Jan. 19.
Bold entries indicate outbreaks with 10 or more confirmed and probable cases, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Amazon Distribution Center
Aspen House Memory Care/Assisted Living
Aspens at Fort Collins
Bacon Elementary School
Bauder Elementary School
Bennett Elementary School
Berthoud Living Center
Brookdale Fort Collins Assisted Living
Brookdale Fort Collins Memory Care
Brookdale Mariana Butte
Cache La Poudre Elementary
Catholic Charities Shelter
Center at Rock Creek
Centre Avenue Health and Rehab
Charter Healthcare & Hospice
City of Fort Collins Utilities
Collinwood Assisted Living
Colorado State University men's basketball team
Columbine Poudre Home Care
Columbine West Health & Rehab Facility
Creekside Village Health and Rehabilitation
*Eagle's Nest Assisted Living
Eyestone Elementary School
Fort Collins Police Department
Golden Peaks Center
Good Samaritan Society - Estes Park Village
Good Samaritan Society - Fort Collins Village
Good Samaritan Society - Loveland Village
Good Samaritan Society - Loveland Village Assisted Living
KinderCare Learning Center Oakridge
KinderCare Learning Center Westgate
Kruse Elementary School
Lakeview Commons Assisted Living
Larimer County Alternative Sentencing Department
Larimer County Community Corrections
Larimer County Jail
Lemay Avenue Health and Rehabilitation
Lesher Middle School
Lincoln Middle School
Little Bear's Child Care, Inc. (Riverside location)
Lopez Elementary School
Loveland High School
Lucile Erwin Middle School
MacKenzie Place Fort Collins
MorningStar of Fort Collins Assisted Living
Mountain View High School
New Mercer Commons
North Shore Health & Rehab Facility
Park Regency Loveland
Poudre Canyon Health and Rehabilitation Center
Poudre High School
Rehabilitation and Nursing Center of the Rockies
Resurrection Christian Elementary
Resurrection Christian Middle/High School
Ridgeview Classical School
Riffenburgh Elementary School
Riverbend Health and Rehabilitation
Rocky Mountain High School
*Seneca House Assisted Living
*Seven Lakes Memory Care
The Goddard School of Fort Collins
The Green House Homes at Mirasol
The Residence at Oakridge
The Sunshine House Fort Collins (CSU)
Thompson Valley High School
Walmart Distribution Center
Young People's Learning Center
Zach Core Knowledge Elementary School
Pat Ferrier is a senior reporter covering business, health care and growth issues in Northern Colorado. Contact her at email@example.com. Please support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a subscription today.
This article originally appeared on Fort Collins Coloradoan: Larimer County COVID outbreaks see 'artificial decrease'