Three employees at two long-term care facilities in Fort Collins tested positive for COVID-19 this week after being fully vaccinated against the contagious virus. Two others tested positive in between their first and second doses; all were asymptomatic and identified through routine weekly testing.
Larimer County health officials say the newly identified cases among people who’ve been fully vaccinated, known as “breakthrough cases,” are not a cause for concern about vaccine efficacy.
In all, two employees at Brookdale Fort Collins Memory Care and four at Lemay Avenue Health and Rehabilitation tested positive in new outbreaks reported this week. Twelve other newly reported outbreaks brought the total number of new outbreaks to 14 this week.
Samples from five of the positive cases at the nursing facilities have been sent to the state for further testing to determine if the workers were infected with a variant of COVID-19.
“It’s not surprising to see vaccine breakthrough cases since no vaccine is 100% effective,” said Kori Wilford, spokesperson for the Larimer County health department.
And long-term-care facility workers are the most likely group in which it would be detected because they are tested weekly.
“Vaccine breakthrough cases are not in and of themselves cause for concern,” Wilford said. “In fact, we expected them to appear because that’s what happened to a small group of people in the clinical trials, too.”
It is also unclear if fully vaccinated people may be less infectious or have short infectious periods, but so far data show that is likely the case, she said. Locally, there have been only a handful of reported breakthrough cases, including the cases at Brookdale and Lemay Avenue Health and Rehabilitation.
The state has identified a number of breakthrough cases statewide, but the Colorado Department of Health and Environment is still analyzing data, a spokesperson said.
“We have not identified more cases than we would expect given current vaccination and transmission rates,” the unidentified spokesperson wrote in an email. “Some of the cases are asymptomatic.”
Some people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will still become infected, but COVID-19 vaccines may also keep people from getting seriously ill, even if they do get COVID-19, added a CDPHE spokesperson.
The state health department doesn’t have data yet on the how many of the breakthrough cases are due to COVID-19 variants.
CDPHE and the Centers for Disease Control are collecting information about the cases to learn whether there are more vaccine breakthrough cases from variant strains and how effective the vaccines are against the new variants.
“Early data show that while vaccines are still effective, they could be less effective against some variants,” the state said.
Fourteen days after the second shot, the vaccine was shown to be 90% effective in a study of 3,950 health care workers, first responders and other essential workers and 80% effective 14 days after the first dose but before the second dose, according to the CDC.
Despite the increase in vaccination rates and high efficacy, the state cautions now is not the time to take our foot off the gas.
It’s still important to wear a mask in public, maintain social distancing, limit contact with anyone outside your household, wash your hands often, stay home when you are sick, and get vaccinated when it is your turn, the state said.
A third round of outbreak testing at Brookdale did not reveal any other positive cases and no resident has tested positive in the new outbreak, according to a company spokesperson.
Brookdale completed its final vaccination clinic in early March, with 94% of residents vaccinated. The facility would not release the percent of employees who have been vaccinated.
“Brookdale is focused on creating an environment of vaccine education and acceptance for both residents and associates alike,” the spokesperson said.
Columbine Health Systems, owner and operator of Lemay Avenue Health, made vaccines mandatory for all staff with a deadline of April 1. Two of the employees who tested positive at Lemay were in process of completing their vaccinations, and one was fully vaccinated, said Yvonne Myers, director of health systems. The fourth had chosen not to get vaccinated and was no longer employed at the facility as of Thursday.
The three tested positive after attending a nonwork event together, Myers said. The fourth case was not related.
“Lemay was crushed” to learn the disease was back in the building, Myers said. “Everyone was crushed.”
Thus far, no residents have tested positive after getting vaccinated, and none of the positive staff members have shown symptoms.
“We are still testing and doing all the things we are supposed to do,” Myers said.
Like the outbreaks at Lemay and Brookdale, most of the other newly reported outbreaks this week were on the smaller side. Outbreaks with five or more cases included Awakened Foods (five cases among staff), Northern Colorado Volleyball Club tournament (three cases among staff and two cases among players) and McDonald’s on Eisenhower Boulevard in Loveland (six cases among staff), according to data outbreak data reported Wednesday by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Awakened Foods, a snack food manufacturing facility in Loveland, closed for seven days to conduct a deep-cleaning of the facility and ensure that all employees could be tested, spokesperson Christina Finkel said. Four of the five cases were asymptomatic. The facility has been implementing social distancing on the manufacturing line, conducting daily health screenings and temperature checks for essential workers, and offering staff bonuses if they get vaccinated, among other health and safety measures
“As we partially reopen, we are increasing social distancing and remote working in addition to our prior COVID-19 protocols,” Finkel wrote in an email. “With this aggressive approach, we have had no impact to our food safety or quality and have maintained full customer service.”
McDonald’s staff conducted a thorough sanitization of the Loveland restaurant after they learned of the positive cases, owner-operator Lauren Koenig wrote in a statement. She said the affected employees have recovered.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we regularly sanitize high-touch surfaces and conduct wellness checks at the beginning of each shift,” Koenig said. “In addition, we routinely remind our people of the importance to remain diligent with COVID-19 precautions – inside and outside of our restaurant.”
A reported outbreak at a Northern Colorado Volleyball Club tournament came after a Loveland volleyball team, the North Stars, had two coaches and two players test positive after an early March tournament. Another player from a Boulder team that had participated in the same tournament later tested positive, club director Cathy Mahaffey told the Coloradoan.
“… while there’s no definitive proof for where the cases were transmitted, (CDPHE) had to associate it with an event,” Wilford, the county health spokesperson, told the Coloradoan. “It doesn’t mean the business wasn’t doing a good job, and we know they all usually are. Unfortunately, with the state’s definition of an outbreak and the sharing of that information and being transparent, it end up being associated with that group or business.”
Active COVID-19 outbreaks in Larimer County
Note: Asterisks indicate outbreaks newly reported since March 25. Bold entries indicate outbreaks with 10 or more confirmed and probable cases, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Advanced Interiors, Windsor
Anheuser Busch Brewery, Fort Collins
Auto Collision Experts
*Awakened Foods, Loveland
Berthoud Fire Department
Berthoud High School
Blevins Middle School, Fort Collins
Blue Spruce Temporary Shelter, Fort Collins
Broadcom Inc., Fort Collins
*Brookdale Fort Collins Memory Care: March 2021
*Buffalo Wild Wings, Fort Collins: March 2021
Campion Academy, Loveland
CAVA restaurant, Fort Collins
Chipper’s Lanes, Estes Park
City of Loveland Police Department
Colorado State University
*Edge Optics, Fort Collins
Elliot’s Martini Bar, Fort Collins
*Encore Electric Inc., Fort Collins
Fort Collins High School (January 2021)
Fort Collins Jeep (March 2021)
*Fort Collins Police Services (March 2021)
Fossil Ridge High School, Fort Collins
Good Samaritan Society – Fort Collins Village senior living (February 2021)
Hach Company, Loveland (March 2021)
Home2 Suites by Hilton, Fort Collins
Jared – Galleria of Jewelry, Loveland
Jimmy John’s, Fort Collins (2337 S. Shields St.)
JMP Heat Inc., Loveland
Kinard Core Knowledge Middle School, Fort Collins
Larimer County Community Corrections
Larimer County Jail
*Lemay Avenue Health and Rehabilitation, Fort Collins
Liberty Common Charter School (high school campus), Fort Collins
Loveland Classical School – Lyceum Campus (February 2021)
Loveland Volleyball Club
Mash Lab Brewing & Kitchen, Windsor
*McDonald’s, Loveland (Eisenhower Blvd)
*Mighty Hand Construction
*Northern Colorado Volleyball Club tournament
Northern Colorado Youth Hockey, Windsor
O’Dell and Co. CPA (office), Fort Collins
Phoenix Home Care and Hospice, Loveland
Poudre High School, Fort Collins (February 2021)
Precision Service Electric Inc. Loveland
Resurrection Christian School, Loveland
Ridgeview Classical Charter School
Rio Grande Mexican restaurant, Fort Collins
Rocky Mountain High School, Fort Collins
Shepardson Elementary School, Fort Collins (March 2021)
*Sprouts Farmers Market, Fort Collins (Corbett Drive)
*Tax Credit Connection, Berthoud
The Farmhouse at Jessup Farm
The Home Depot, Fort Collins (4502 John F Kennedy Parkway) (January 2021)
*The Human Bean, Loveland
The Sunshine House (CSU location), Fort Collins
*The Urban Egg, Fort Collins
Trader Joe’s, Fort Collins
UCHealth Mountain Crest Behavioral Health Center, Fort Collins
Veterinary Accounting Specialists
Walmart, Loveland (250 W. 65th St.)
Walmart Distribution Center, Loveland (November 2020)
Whole Foods Market, Fort Collins
Reporter Kelly Lyell contributed to this report.
Jacy Marmaduke covers government accountability for the Coloradoan. Follow her on Twitter @jacymarmaduke.
Pat Ferrier is a senior reporter covering business, health care and growth issues in Northern Colorado. Contact her at email@example.com. Please support their work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a subscription today.