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The number of Colorado nursing homes experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak has increased for two weeks, raising concerns that broader spread in the community could put a high-risk population in danger again.

Data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment showed active outbreaks in 19 facilities Wednesday, up from 14 the previous week and 12 on Oct. 7.

It’s too early to be sure if there’s a trend, but it’s a reminder to the general public to wear their masks and maintain social distancing, said Doug Farmer, president and CEO of the Colorado Health Care Association. Nursing homes are focused on using protective equipment, handwashing and regular testing of employees to keep the virus out, but it’s not possible to detect every asymptomatic person who could bring it in, he said.

“Those employees do go back out in the community” where they can be exposed, he said.

Outbreaks in nursing homes remain well below their peak in mid-May, when 93 facilities were dealing with the virus. Any increase in nursing home outbreaks is potentially concerning, however, because they tend to be more deadly than outbreaks in most settings. In April, long-term care facilities accounted for almost half of Colorado’s COVID-19 deaths, even though fewer than 10% of cases were in those facilities.

This week’s new uptick came as Colorado broke a record for active outbreaks set the previous week. The state health department reported 70 new outbreaks in the past week, bringing the total considered active to 346. An outbreak is defined as two or more cases linked to the same location or event, and isn’t considered over until four weeks have passed with no new cases.

A statement from the state health department attributed the record number of outbreaks to three factors: increased testing identifying more cases, better reporting of clusters, and a true increase in the number of outbreaks happening.

“As cases of COVID-19 increase in Colorado, we expect to also have an increase in outbreaks,” the statement said.

College, school outbreaks increase

The number of outbreaks linked to colleges continued to grow this week, with 15 outbreaks linked dormitories, sports teams or entire campuses.

University of Colorado Boulder added 81 cases, bringing its total to 1,792, and Colorado State University added 191, for a total of 566. It’s possible the numbers include some delayed reports and that not all of the additional cases happened in the last week.

The largest ongoing outbreaks, other than CU Boulder and CSU, are:

  • Sterling Correctional Facility: 638 cases, three deaths
  • Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center, Denver: 537 cases, no deaths
  • Fremont Correctional Facility: 378 cases, no deaths
  • University of Denver: 219 cases, no deaths
  • People experiencing homelessness, Denver: 160 cases, no deaths
  • Steven Roberts Original Desserts: 144 cases, one death
  • Jabil Healthcare, Colorado Springs: 124 cases, no deaths
  • Elms Haven Center, Thornton: 116 cases, 19 deaths
  • Aurora immigration detention facility: 105 cases, no deaths

Outbreaks are ongoing in 35 K-12 schools around the state. None have more than 15 cases at this point.

This content was originally published here.