Biggest Colorado Outbreaks Since the Start of the Pandemic

Part of the CU Boulder campus and residential halls as seen from the air.
Part of the CU Boulder campus and residential halls as seen from the air. University of Colorado Boulder via YouTube
Part of the CU Boulder campus and residential halls as seen from the air. - UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO BOULDER VIA YOUTUBE
Part of the CU Boulder campus and residential halls as seen from the air.
University of Colorado Boulder via YouTube
A year ago this month, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment began tracking outbreaks of COVID-19 in the state. Out of more than 4,000 sites identified as outbreaks since then, 32 have registered more than 100 COVID-19 cases each, with five of them topping 1,000 — several by a lot.

The department's data, most recently updated on March 31, shows that the vast majority of those mega-outbreaks remain under active investigation — a reflection of the massive infection counts and their potential ripple effects. Even the outbreak at the Weld County Jail, whose start date is listed as April 1, 2020, and Denver's Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center, which began last April 30, are still classified as active. The largest outbreak considered resolved was a November 2020 flare-up at the Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility in Crowley County, following 1,044 cases and four resident (i.e., inmate) deaths.

The CDPHE considers an entity an outbreak after two or more COVID-19 cases among residents, staffers or other people connected to a specific location are confirmed within a fourteen-day period, or two or more cases of respiratory illness with an onset of symptoms within a fourteen-day period are paired with at least one additional COVID-19 diagnosis.

Ten of Colorado's largest active outbreaks are at prisons or jails, but that's less than a third of the total that topped 100 cases. Three more started in office/indoor workspace settings: the Dish Network space in Littleton, as well as El Paso County's Charter Communications and Jabil Healthcare. A Home Depot and an American Furniture Warehouse in Adams County have both hit triple digits, as have distribution centers for Walmart (in Larimer County) and Target (in Pueblo County). At the JBS Greeley Beef plant, a second outbreak is still being watched closely (following one in April 2020 that led to 294 infections and six deaths), as is an outbreak at Steven Roberts Original Desserts in Adams County. And the Colorado Springs In-N-Out has experienced 105 staff cases since its opening in late November.

The CDPHE also flagged major outbreaks among the United Airlines luggage transport crew at Denver International Airport, the Andrew Wommack Ministries facility in Teller County, and Winter Park ski area, which has racked up 167 COVID-19 cases since February. Denver's shelter system also makes the outbreak list; the number of people experiencing homelessness who have tested positive is nearing 400.

Some of the most eye-popping numbers come from colleges or universities, which comprise five of the state's biggest outbreaks, including the top two: Colorado State University, which has recorded more than 2,600 cases, and the University of Colorado Boulder, now over 3,300 (undergraduate enrollment is 31,000-plus).

Boulder is also home to the deadliest of the state's 32 biggest active outbreaks: At Manor Health Services, a skilled-nursing facility, 22 residents have lost their lives in an outbreak said to have started in January.

Here are Colorado's currently active COVID-19 outbreaks with more than 100 positive cases, listed from smallest to largest and supplemented with information about when the outbreak was identified and the type of people affected.

32. Dish Network Littleton, Office/Indoor Workspace, Arapahoe County, 11/9/2020, 102 staff cases, 102 total cases
31. In-N-Out Burger Colorado Springs, Restaurant, Fast Food, El Paso County, 12/7/2020, 105 staff cases
30. The Home Depot #1503, Retailer, Adams County, 8/11/2020, 106 staff cases, 106 total cases
29. Denver International Airport/United Ramp Services, Travel, Luggage Transport, Denver County, 8/18/2020, 108 staff cases, 108 total cases
28. American Furniture Warehouse #32, Retailer, Adams County, 10/28/2020, 109 staff cases, 109 total cases
27 (tie). JBS Greeley Beef Plant: November 2020, Food Manufacturing/Packaging, Weld County, 11/13/2020, 111 staff cases, 111 total cases
26 (tie). Walmart Distribution Center: November 2020, Distribution Center/Business, Larimer County, 11/2/2020, 111 staff cases, 111 total cases
25. Target Distribution Center: October 2020, Distribution Center/Business, Pueblo County, 10/27/2020, 112 staff cases, 112 total cases
24. Weld County Jail, Jail, Weld County, 4/1/2020, 88 resident cases, 28 staff cases, 1 resident death, 116 total cases
23. Charter Communications, Office/Indoor Workspace, El Paso County, 11/24/2020, 117 staff cases, 117 total cases
22. Manor Health Services — Boulder (020315), Healthcare, Skilled Nursing, Boulder County, 1/7/2021, 80 resident cases, 46 staff cases, 22 resident deaths, 126 total cases
21. Regis University 2020-2021 School Year, College/University, Denver County, 9/9/2020, 21 staff cases, 129 attendee cases, 150 total cases
20. Andrew Wommack Ministries Incorporated, Religious Facility, Teller County, 8/19/2020, 158 staff cases, 4 attendee cases, 162 total cases
19. Evraz Pueblo, Construction Company/Contractor, Pueblo County, 9/21/2020, 162 staff cases, 162 total cases
18. Colorado State University Pueblo, College/University, Pueblo County, 9/30/2020, 24 staff cases, 140 attendee cases, 164 total cases
17. Winter Park Resort, Outdoor Entertainment/Rec, Grand County, 2/8/2021, 167 staff cases, 167 total cases
16. Adams County Sheriff's Detention Facility, Jail, Adams County, 12/17/2020, 167 resident cases, 3 staff cases, 170 total cases
15. Jabil Healthcare, Office/Indoor Workspace, El Paso County, 7/28/2020, 183 staff cases, 183 total cases
14. Colorado State Penitentiary: November 2020, State Prison, Fremont County, 11/20/2020, 128 resident cases, 75 staff cases, 203 total cases
13. Pueblo Chemical Agent — Destruction Pilot Plant, Materials Supplier, Chemical Depot, Pueblo County, 7/16/2020, 208 staff cases, 208 total cases
12. Steven Roberts Original Desserts, Food Manufacturing/Packaging, Adams County, 5/15/2020, 211 staff cases, 1 staff death, 211 total cases
11. Centennial Correctional Facility: October 2020, State Prison, Fremont County, 10/22/2020, 126 resident cases, 102 staff cases, 228 total cases
10. Arapahoe County Detention Facility, Jail, Arapahoe County, 12/3/2020, 263 resident cases, 7 staff cases, 270 total cases
9. People Experiencing Homelessness (Denver), Homeless Shelter, Denver County, 7/14/2020, 362 resident cases, 34 staff cases, 396 total cases
8. Pueblo Detention Center, Jail, Pueblo, 11/9/2020, 440 resident cases, 113 staff cases, 553 total cases
7. Crowley County Correctional Facility: November 2020, State Prison, Crowley County, 10/16/2020, 842 resident cases, 41 staff cases, 1 resident death, 883 total cases
6. University of Denver Community Outbreak 2020-2021 School Year, College/University, Denver County, 10/13/2020, 86 staff cases, 843 attendee cases, 929 total cases
5. Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center, Jail, Denver County, 4/30/2020, 1095 resident cases, 86 staff cases, 1181 total cases
4. Bent County Correctional Facility, State Prison, Bent County, 11/18/2020, 1091 resident cases, 95 staff cases, 2 resident deaths, 1186 total cases
3. El Paso County Criminal Justice Center, Jail, El Paso County, 10/27/2020, 1145 resident cases, 127 staff cases, 1272 total cases
2. Colorado State University, College/University, Larimer County, 10/2/2020, 2651 attendee cases, 2651 total cases
1. University of Colorado Boulder Community Outbreak, College/University, Boulder County, 9/23/2020, 226 staff cases, 3108 attendee cases, 3334 total cases
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts