COVID-19 outbreaks on rise as omicron spreads; UCHealth sees mostly incidental cases


As case numbers and positivity rates continue to reach new heights with the spread of the omicron variant, COVID-19 outbreaks are also on the rise in Larimer County. 

Ten new outbreaks were reported in data released Wednesday, nine of which were at long-term care facilities and the other at a home-health care agency. The outbreaks were small and mostly confined to employees. The largest — at Columbine Poudre Home Care — had just seven cases.

Yvonne Myers, Columbine’s outgoing director of health systems, said none of the seven employees shared a client, and contact tracing showed all were exposed outside of work. All seven workers were fully vaccinated and four had received their COVID-19 booster shots, Myers said.

Six of the home health care workers developed symptoms, reported them to their supervisor and tested positive, Myers said. One worker, who treats residents at one of Columbine’s assisted living facilities, tested positive during routine testing at the facility. 

It is Columbine Poudre Home Care’s first outbreak since the start of the pandemic.

Outbreaks were also reported at three Brookdale facilities in Fort Collins and Loveland. Brookdale Fort Collins Assisted Living and Brookdale Fort Collins Memory Care each had three cases among staff. The assisted living center’s outbreak was first reported to the state on Dec. 31 but just reported in the state’s outbreak database released Wednesday. 

The memory care facility reported its outbreak on Jan. 7.

MORE: Here’s why Larimer County won’t add more COVID-19 restrictions amid omicron case surge

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Brookdale Mariana Butte in Loveland reported two residents tested positive for COVID 19. The outbreak was reported Jan. 3. 

A Brookdale spokesperson declined comment on the outbreaks other than to say it complies with all guidance from local and state authorities and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in regard to specific protocol. “Our industry is no exemption to the COVID-19 virus, including this latest wave of contagiousness.” 

The state considers an outbreak to be two or more cases at long-term care facilities or correctional institutions within 14 days. The threshold is five or more cases for most other businesses.

Aspen House Assisted Living and Memory Care in Loveland reported an outbreak of five cases, four among staff, to the state on Jan. 1. Michelle Billups, super executive director of the facility, said she could not comment in depth on the outbreak but said it had caused a strain on the center in terms of staffing shortages.  

The other sites of newly reported outbreaks could not be reached for comment. According to outbreak data released Wednesday:

  • Collinwood Assisted Living Center had three cases among staff in an outbreak reported to the state on Jan. 7.
  • Creekside Village Health and Rehabilitation Center had one case in a resident and four cases among staff in an outbreak reported to the state on Dec. 31. 
  • MacKenzie Place had three cases among staff in an outbreak reported to the state on Dec. 29.
  • MorningStar of Fort Collins had one case in a resident and four among staff in an outbreak reported to the state on Dec. 31.
  • The Green House Homes at Mirasol had one case in a resident and three among staff reported to the state on Jan. 2.

While the omicron variant is spreading rapidly, the county’s number of COVID-related deaths is down so far in January. 

Four people, a 50-year-old man and three men in their 80s, have died related to COVID-19 so far this month. 

In December, there were 20 COVID-related deaths, ranging in age from 36 to 94, according to county data. December’s deaths were down from November, when 61 people died related to COVID-19, the youngest of whom was 38 and the oldest of whom was 96.

Omicron’s impact on hospital system different than previous waves

UCHealth reported on Jan. 12 that two-thirds of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the hospital system’s hospitals were admitted for other reasons and then found to be positive. Of more than 350 COVID-positive patients in UCHealth hospitals, about one-third were admitted primarily due to virus complications, according to a press release. 

That marks a change from earlier waves. When delta was the dominant variant in Colorado, more than 90% of the COVID-19-positive patients in UCHealth hospitals were there for COVID-19 treatment or complications, according to the release. 

But even though omicron is less severe and the majority of COVID-19 patients were admitted for other reasons, UCHealth said they still need to be placed in specific COVID-19 units and require additional protective gear to prevent spread.

UCHealth representatives said patterns of infection severity have not shifted with the variant — unvaccinated people still face a much higher risk of complications or severe illness with COVID-19. 

Of the 75 ventilated patients in UCHealth’s intensive care units as of the Jan. 12 release, more than 90% were unvaccinated, UCHealth said.

“Patients who are unvaccinated still make up the vast majority of those in the hospital or in the ICUs who need treatment for COVID-19,” said Dr. Michelle Barron, UCHealth’s senior medical director of infection prevention and control and a professor of medicine and infectious diseases at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, in the release.

“… While Omicron is less severe than other variants, the risk is not zero.”

More restrictions?:Larimer County health department said no. Here’s why.

Where is Larimer County with the mask mandate metrics?

As of data pulled from the Larimer County’s COVID-19 dashboard Friday morning, 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 morning, 79 COVID-19 patients were being treated in Larimer hospitals, intensive care units in county hospitals were at 98% capacity and the seven-day case rate per 100,000 residents was 1,391. The county had a seven-day positivity rate of 27.2%.

A “low risk” seven-day positivity rate would be 5% or lower, according to the health department’s online dashboard. 

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:

According to the county health department, just over 71% of eligible Larimer County residents had received at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Jan. 12, and 65.7% were fully vaccinated.

A little more than one-third of residents had received booster or additional doses, according to county data.

Omicron is surging in Larimer County:Here’s what to know

COVID-19 outbreaks in Larimer County

Note: Asterisks indicate outbreaks newly reported since data released on Jan. 5.

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

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

City of Fort Collins Utilities

*Collinwood Assisted Living

Colorado State University men’s basketball team

*Columbine Poudre Home Care

Columbine West Health & Rehab Facility 

Costco Wholesale

*Creekside Village Health and Rehabilitation

Dellenbach Subaru

Eyestone Elementary School

Fort Collins Police Department

Good Samaritan Society – Fort Collins Village

Good Samaritan Society – Loveland Village

Hach Company 

Hillcrest of Loveland

Kruse Elementary School

Larimer County Alternative Sentencing Department

Larimer County Community Corrections

Larimer County Jail

Lemay Avenue Health and Rehabilitation

Lesher Middle School

Lincoln Middle School

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

Poudre High School

Rehabilitation and Nursing Center of the Rockies

Republic Services 

Resurrection Christian Elementary

Resurrection Christian Middle/High School

Ridgeview Classical School

Riverbend Health and Rehabilitation

Rocky Mountain High School 

*The Green House Homes at Mirasol

Thompson Valley High School

Walmart Distribution Center

Young People’s Learning Center

Zach Core Knowledge Elementary School

Molly Bohannon covers education for the Coloradoan. Follow her on Twitter @molboha or contact her at Pat Ferrier is a senior reporter covering business, health care and growth issues in Northern Colorado. Contact her at Support their work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.