COVID-19 cases at Casey’s Pond include 3 staff, 1 resident | SteamboatToday.com
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COVID-19 cases at Casey’s Pond include 3 staff, 1 resident

Casey’s Pond, a senior living community located in Steamboat Springs, underwent mass testing for COVID-19 after a staff member tested positive earlier this week. A total of three staff members and one resident have tested positive as of Sunday.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Despite strict protocol restricting visitors and screening staff upon entering, COVID-19 has found its way into the Casey’s Pond senior living complex, where a high concentration of some the community’s most vulnerable population reside.

Three staff members and one resident at Casey’s Pond have tested positive for COVID-19, Casey’s Pond and public health officials reported Sunday.

After officials announced Wednesday one staff member had tested positive, efforts to contact trace and test within Casey’s Pond ramped up quickly, aided by the Routt County Public Health Department obtaining an emergency supply of test collection materials from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

In total, 105 people at Casey’s Pond have been tested, according to local officials.

“We have been working on prevention for over four weeks to limit any potential contact with COVID-19,” Casey’s Pond Executive Director Brad Boatright said in a news release. “At present, we are not accepting any new admissions, and we are protecting both staff and residents by using personal protective equipment and isolation measures to aggressively contain the outbreak.” 

At this time, general testing efforts in the county are focused on health care workers and first responders, in order to maintain the critical workforce, as well as hospitalized patients and people who have been identified as having close contact with a positive case. Testing resources continue to be severely limited.

“The news of the initial positive test in Casey’s Pond was significantly alarming due to residents of Casey’s Pond being a vulnerable population for COVID-19,” Routt County Public Health Director Kari Ladrow said in the release. “Three public health nurses were deployed immediately to Casey’s Pond to test as many contacts of the positive individual as quickly as possible.” 

With that aggressive testing push, tests at Casey’s Pond make up 36% of the county’s total tests.

As of Sunday, 290 tests have been submitted in the county with 203 negative, 71 pending and 16 positive. Those include the Casey’s Pond cases.

According to her most recent numbers, Casey’s Pond Vice-President of Communications Pam Sullivan said Casey’s Pond is still waiting on test results for 33 more employees and eight more residents.

The local health department has more tests available for Casey’s Pond and are monitoring the situation closely, according to officials.

There are currently 105 residents at Casey’s Pond and 186 full-time and part-time staff members.

The three staff members who tested positive are in isolation and recovering at home. One of those employees, along with the resident who tested positive, were asymptomatic at the time of testing. The resident is feeling fine, according to officials, and is in isolation.

On Friday, the county announced a new COVID-19 case of a male in his 90s. Its isn’t clear whether that is the Casey’s Pond resident, but it is the oldest case thus far reported in the county.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is reporting 10 COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes and long-term care facilities across the state. After a public record request filed by The Denver Post, the state health department released the names and locations of nine of the 10. There are two each in Weld and Larimer counties and one each in El Paso, Chaffee, Arapahoe, Adams and Jefferson counties. The name and location of the 10th facility was not yet released, and it is unknown at this time whether the four cases at Casey’s Pond constitute an outbreak.

An outbreak isn’t defined as a specific number, and The Denver Post reported the facilities on the list reporting as many as nine and as few as two positive cases. The state is still not releasing information on how many positive tests are tied to each care center.

Protecting the most vulnerable

Epidemiologist Jenny Campbell was hired by Routt County a week ago and is leading a task force focused on the community’s high risk populations, which includes nursing homes and long-term care facilities, as well as seniors in general, and the home health care workers who visit them.

The most vulnerable population, said Steamboat Emergency Center Dr. Matthew Freeman, is “far and above” those who are 65 and older, and especially those who have COPD — coronary artery disease — diabetes and are immunocompromised, among some other conditions that place people in the higher risk category, like obesity and pregnancy.

While about 80% of people who contract the virus can self-resolve at home, the fatality rate is by far highest in people 80 and older. The rate calculated thus far by Our World in Data in people over 80 ranges from 13% in South Korea to 20.2% in Italy.

Under the larger goal of minimizing transmission, Campbell’s group works on educational outreach and ensuring the high risk communities and individuals have adequate supplies and access to resources, including personal protective equipment. 

After 35 people died from COVID-19 in a nursing home in Kirkland, Washington, nursing homes have been on high alert for the particular dangers they face.

“As we watched what unfolded in Washington state, we immediately increased our virus mitigation cleanings throughout the entire community,” Sullivan said, of all of the Casey’s Pond facilities. “We also implemented temperature checks and single-entrance screenings prior to the CDC directives. We have also tried to be as transparent and communicative with residents, families and the general public as possible and offer ways for residents to connect with loved ones during this restricted time.”

But even with the most stringent policies, “We can only do so much,” Campbell said.

People can take anywhere from two to 11 days to show symptoms after being exposed to COVID-19, she noted. That means even extensive screening — short of an actual test — would not catch an infected person who is showing no symptoms and has no known contact with a positive case.

Studies are showing the virus is being spread in large part by people who are either presymptomatic — still in that two- to 11-day window — or asymptomatic, meaning there are a lot of people walking around with COVID-19 who have no idea they are infected and may never know they’re infected.

The majority of infected children in particular, are showing either mild or no symptoms, according to recent studies from China.

Casey’s Pond was proactive in starting the staff screenings before it was directed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. But that won’t catch someone who is presymptomatic or asymptomatic but still shedding the virus.

And even if someone gets a negative test result, they could be exposed to the virus hours, days or weeks after taking the test.

“The challenge with COVID-19 testing is that it gives us a snapshot in time,” said Routt County Public Health Officer Dr. Brain Harrington in the release. “You may test negative today and come into contact with someone and be positive tomorrow. The best thing we can do to reduce the spread is to stay home with our immediate household.”

Staying at home as much as possible, Campbell saod, is helping to keep those critical workers — like at Casey’s Pond — from getting exposed, as well as their family members.

“All we can ask as a community is that everyone do the best they can to minimize transmission and keep it from exploding in the community and overwhelming the hospitals,” Campbell said.

Because they were able to conduct so many tests, more positives at Casey’s Pond would not be surprising, Sullivan said.

“We are grateful for the efforts of the county public health nurses in administering the tests and for the health department support in securing more personal protective equipment that enables us to sustain full medical virus protocols during this time,” she said.

To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.


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