Larimer County sees artificial spike in COVID-19 outbreaks as state data catches up

After an artificially low number of reported COVID-19 outbreaks late last month caused by a backlog at the state health department, local health officials warned a flood of new outbreaks would show up in the weeks ahead.

They weren't wrong.

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment listed 34 new outbreaks in Larimer County on data released Wednesday, with the oldest dating back to December. There are 107 active outbreaks in the county listed in Wednesday's data.

The surge in cases due to the omicron variant made it difficult for the state health department to keep up, so it was reporting outbreaks for six priority settings, a health department spokesperson previously told the Coloradoan. Those settings included health care facilities, correctional settings, highly mobile populations, schools, critical infrastructure, and tribes and Native communities.

Wednesday's list of newly reported outbreaks shows three K-12 schools, three child care centers, a Colorado State University fraternity, 21 businesses, a medical spa, three long-term care or assisted living centers, a municipality and the state public defender's office. The newly included outbreaks account for more than 400 individual cases, according to a Coloradoan analysis of the outbreak data.

The swell in cases comes as Larimer County gets ready to lift its mask mandate on Feb. 12. Poudre and Thompson school districts also announced they would end their current mask mandates, with some exceptions due to federal mandates and public health guidelines, when the county mandate expires.

The county health department estimated about 78% of all Coloradans have some form of immunity against the omicron variant, either from vaccination or recent infection, according to a Jan. 31 news release announcing the change. Natural immunity may not last as long as immunity provided by vaccines, according to the health department, but it's estimated to last at least three months, "providing a bridge to the warmer months of the year when COVID transmission is less of a risk."

"Going forward, we could see cases go up should future variants start circulating, however, at this time we have a big wall of vaccine and natural immunity to the virus," said Kori Wilford, spokesperson for the county health department.

Despite high transmission numbers, "the case rate is dropping quickly across all age groups" and unvaccinated people remain about 2.6 times more likely to be an identified case compared with boosted individuals, she said.

The health department expects outbreaks will continue when large groups are gathered inside for prolonged periods.

"We anticipate many people will choose to keep masks on as a precaution as omicron cases come down," Wilford said. "Some will take them off, but with many recent infections and relatively high levels of vaccination, the loss of masks in some contexts will have a smaller impact on transmission than the absence of masks at other times."

Pedestrians walk along North College Avenue in Old Town Fort Collins on Jan. 26.

Schools continue to see cases rise

Schools had the largest of the newly reported outbreaks Wednesday, with Fort Collins High School reporting 53 cases among students, followed by Boltz Middle School with 27 cases, two of which were among staff.

PSD spokesperson Alex Ballou confirmed the numbers and said Boltz is in outbreak status as defined by the state health department: five or more cases in one classroom, cohort, team or activity.

However, not all reported cases are tied to the outbreak designation, Ballou said.

Once an outbreak is reported at a school, all cases reported at that site within the outbreak period are considered to be a part of the outbreak, regardless of if they can be traced back to the original outbreak, according to previous reporting by the Coloradoan.

Campion Academy in Loveland reported 10 students and one staff member tested positive.

The Sunshine House at Bucking Horse child care center reported 18 cases, with cases evenly split among children and staff. The Children's Workshop reported 11 cases, two of which were among staff. Arts and Imagination Preschool in Fort Collins reported five cases.

CSU fraternity Sigma Pi saw its second COVID-19 outbreak of the pandemic last month, with positive cases among its fraternity members starting roughly two weeks ago, Sigma Pi chapter adviser Matt Kuhn told the Coloradoan on Wednesday.

After experiencing an outbreak at its East Elizabeth Street fraternity house in 2020, Sigma Pi's latest outbreak of five cases was reported to the state health department on Jan. 26, according to state data. As of last week, Kuhn said one fraternity member out of the outbreak's original five has continued to test positive for COVID-19.

Big-box, grocery stores see more cases

Several of Larimer County's most popular big-box and grocery stores saw outbreaks reported in the past three weeks.

The Target on Troutman Parkway in Fort Collins, Lowe's on Sculptor Drive in Loveland the Walmart on West 65th Street in Loveland all had outbreaks with more than 10 staff testing positive.

Lowe's reported 11 cases; Walmart had 19, and the Midtown Fort Collins Target store reported 15 staff members tested positive.

A Walmart spokesperson said the store has about 350 employees but declined comment on the specific outbreak.

"As we have done since the pandemic’s beginning, we’re taking all COVID-19-related measures seriously and continue closely monitoring our stores for the safety of our associates and customers," the spokesperson said.

"While we are not able to provide information about those impacted for privacy reasons, know that we are working with any affected associates to ensure they have the time needed to get well.'

Whole Foods Market had an outbreak with 22 employees testing positive, and Trader Joe's reported a dozen positive cases among staff.

Whole Foods had no official comment when contacted for this story.

Larimer County COVID-19 metrics

Larimer County's seven-day case rate has been on a consistent decline since Jan. 22, when it was about 1,385 per 100,000 people. On Thursday, it was 684 per 100,000, according to information on the county's COVID-19 dashboard on Friday.

At the peak of the omicron surge, the county's case rate topped 1,500 per 100,000.

The county's seven-day positivity rate had dropped to 18.5% as of information shared on the dashboard Friday.

The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients was 86, but intensive care units were still being used at 105% of usual care levels, according to the dashboard.

Statewide, UCHealth hospitals have 94 patients in its ICUs who tested positive for COVID-19; 64 are not fully vaccinated.

Roughly half of UCHealth's COVID-19 patients were being treated primarily for COVID-19 and half were admitted for another reason and then tested positive, said UCHealth spokesperson Kelly Tracer.

As of Friday, Larimer County recorded 27 deaths related to COVID-19 in January, up from 21 deaths in December but down significantly from 61 in November.

Of the 27 who died, five were in their 50s or younger, four were in their 60s and 18 were 70 or older.

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 first reported by the state Feb. 2. Due to the backlog at the state health department, some of the outbreaks listed as new in the weekly report were reported to the state in the previous three weeks.

Bold entries indicate outbreaks with 10 or more confirmed and probable cases, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

*Allura Skin, Laser, and Wellness Clinic

Amazon Distribution Center

*Arts and Imagination Preschool

Aspen House Memory Care/Assisted Living

Aspens at Fort Collins

Bacon Elementary School

Bauder Elementary School

Bennett Elementary School

Berthoud Living Center

*BillGo Inc.

*Boltz Middle School

Brookdale Fort Collins Assisted Living

Brookdale Fort Collins Memory Care

Brookdale Mariana Butte

*Brookdale North Loveland

Cache La Poudre Elementary

*Campion Academy

*Canyon Bakehouse

Catholic Charities Shelter

Center at Rock Creek

Centre Avenue Health and Rehab

Charter Healthcare & Hospice

*City of Fort Collins

City of Fort Collins Utilities

*Collection Center Inc.

Collinwood Assisted Living

Colorado State University men's basketball team

*Colorado State University Sigma Pi, Eta Sigma

Columbine Poudre Home Care

Columbine West Health & Rehab Facility

Costco Wholesale

*Creekside Gardens Assisted Living Facility

Creekside Village Health and Rehabilitation

Dellenbach Subaru

Discovery Montessori

Eagle's Nest Assisted Living

Eyestone Elementary School

*Fort Collins High School

*Fort Collins Office of the Colorado State Public Defender

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

Hach Co.

*Hubbard Feeds


*Jorgensen Laboratories

*Ken Garff Automotive

*Kind Care of Colorado

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

*Lightning eMotors

Lincoln Middle School

Little Bear's Child Care, Inc. (Riverside location)

Lopez Elementary School

Loveland High School

*Lowe's, Loveland

Lucile Erwin Middle School

MacKenzie Place Fort Collins

*Markley Motors

MorningStar of Fort Collins Assisted Living

Mountain View High School

New Mercer Commons

North Shore Health & Rehab Facility

*Organic Alternatives

Park Regency Loveland

Poudre Canyon Health and Rehabilitation Center

Poudre High School

Rehabilitation and Nursing Center of the Rockies

Republic Services

Resurrection Christian Elementary

Resurrection Christian Middle/High School

Ridgeview Classical School

Riffenburgh Elementary School

Riverbend Health and Rehabilitation

Rocky Mountain High School

*Rubadue Wire Co.

Seneca House Assisted Living

Seven Lakes Memory Care

*Surfside 7

*Target, 105 W. Troutman Parkway, Fort Collins

*The Children's Workshop (Silverplume Drive location in Fort Collins)

*The Elizabeth Hotel

The Goddard School of Fort Collins

The Green House Homes at Mirasol

The Residence at Oakridge

*The Ridgeline Hotel

*The Sunshine House Fort Collins (Bucking Horse Farm)

The Sunshine House Fort Collins (CSU)

*The Winslow

Thompson Valley High School

*Trader Joe's

*Walmart, 250 W. 65th St., Loveland

Walmart Distribution Center

*Water Pik

*Whole Foods Market

Young People's Learning Center

Zach Core Knowledge Elementary School

Coloradoan reporter Erin Udell contributed to this report.

Pat Ferrier is a senior reporter covering business, health care and growth issues in Northern Colorado. Contact her at 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 sees artificial spike in COVID outbreaks