Coronavirus

Could Stealth Omicron Variant Fuel Surge in COVID Outbreaks?

St. Mary's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Grand Junction has been declared a COVID-19 outbreak site.
St. Mary's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Grand Junction has been declared a COVID-19 outbreak site. Photo by Michael Roberts
The latest COVID-19 update from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment shows a big increase in the percentage of cases tied to what's become known as the stealth version of the Omicron variant, because scientists believe it's harder to detect than the strain from which it evolved.

So far, stealth Omicron, which accounted for just over 30 percent of samples sequenced by the CDPHE during the week of March 13, the most recent for which statistics are available, has not led to a big surge in COVID outbreaks. But officials will be watching closely to see if that changes in the coming weeks.

During the first year of the pandemic, the state health department declared an outbreak if two or more COVID-19 cases among residents, staffers, attendees and others were tied to a particular setting within a fourteen-day period. Now this standard only applies to health-care or correctional facilities; an outbreak anywhere else requires at least five confirmed or probable cases over two weeks.

The most recent outbreak figures were released yesterday, March 30, and they document continuing declines in the number of sites that have been recently identified or are under ongoing supervision. The latest report documents 33 new or tweaked outbreaks listings over the two weeks since our previous update — an improvement over the 27 added for the one-week period ending March 16. And the 510 outbreaks under active investigation on March 30 are far lower than the 802 still active on March 16.

More than half of the 33 new or tweaked outbreaks are health-care facilities. Of the seventeen sites in this category, fifteen specifically cater to seniors, while the other two are acute-care hospitals in Mesa County that have some of the largest current case amounts: Community Hospital, with 36 staff cases, and St. Mary's Hospital and Regional Medical Center, with 34.

Another twelve outbreaks pertain to K-12 schools, but seven of them are in Boulder County, which has been working through a backlog of COVID spread at such institutions from earlier in the year. There's also an outbreak at the University of Denver's Daniels College of Business and the New Horizons International Music Association branch in northern Colorado, which describes itself as "an international nonprofit music organization providing seniors and anyone over age fifty an opportunity to play in a band."

Here are the 33 new or tweaked active outbreaks identified by the CDPHE during the two weeks ending March 30, along with the date when the outbreak was cited and the people impacted:

1. Applewood Our House Assisted Living Facility 5 (23R660): March 2022, Healthcare, Assisted Living, Jefferson County, 3/14/2022, 4 resident cases
2. Casey Middle School, School, K-12, Boulder County, 3/14/2022, 2 staff cases, 24 attendee cases
3. Clermont Park Assisted Living (230463): March 2022, Healthcare, Assisted Living, Denver County, 3/24/2022, 8 resident cases, 2 staff cases
4. Community Hospital, Healthcare, Acute Care Hospital, Mesa County, 3/28/2022, 36 staff cases
5. East High School: December 2021, School, K-12, Denver County, 12/9/2021, 53 staff cases, 218 attendee cases
6. Erie High School: January 2022, School, Weld County, 3/18/2022, 39 attendee cases
7. Erie Middle School: January 2022, School, K-12, Weld County, 3/17/2022, 21 attendee cases
8. Haaff Elementary School, School, K-12, Pueblo County, 3/21/2022, 4 staff cases, 20 attendee cases
9. Hallmark Nursing Center (020453): March 2022, Healthcare, Skilled Nursing, Denver County, 3/14/2022, 4 resident cases, 3 staff cases
10. Jefferson Junior/Senior High School, School, K-12, Weld County, 3/17/2022, 3 staff cases, 11 attendee cases
11. Justice High Charter School, School, K-12, Boulder County, 1/2/2022, 7 attendee cases
12. Lafayette Elementary School, School, K-12, Boulder County, 3/17/2022, 2 staff cases, 23 attendee cases
13. Lemay Avenue Health & Rehabilitation (020326): March 2022, Healthcare, Skilled Nursing, Larimer County, 3/22/2022, 2 staff cases
14. Leprino Foods — Greeley: February 2022, Food Manufacturing/Packaging, Weld County, 3/15/2022, 12 staff cases
15. Mapleton Care Center (020411): March 2022, Healthcare, Skilled Nursing, Jefferson County, 3/15/2022, 1 resident case, 1 staff case
16. Mesa Elementary School, School, K-12, Boulder County, 3/17/2022, 2 staff cases, 12 attendee cases
17. Mesa View Retirement Home Inc (231289), Healthcare, Assisted Living, Montezuma County, 3/16/2022, 8 resident cases
18. Monarch High School: January 2022, School, K-12, Boulder County, 2/17/2022, 3 staff cases, 35 attendee cases
19. New Horizons International Music Association, Indoor Entertainment/Rec, Larimer County, 3/23/2022, 7 staff cases
20. Northglenn Heights Assisted Living Community (230430): March 2022, Healthcare, Assisted Living, Adams County, 3/24/2022, 1 resident case, 1 staff case
21. Promedica Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation (020315): March 2022, Healthcare, Skilled Nursing, Boulder County, 3/15/2022, 3 resident cases, 1 staff case
22. Promedica Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation (020476): March 2022, Healthcare, Skilled Nursing, Denver County, 3/21/2022, 3 resident cases
23. Rehabilitation and Nursing Center of the Rockies (020325): March 2022, Healthcare, Skilled Nursing, Larimer County, 3/8/2022, 1 resident case, 3 staff cases
24. Riverdale Rehab and Care Community (020312): March 2022, Healthcare, Skilled Nursing, Adams County, 3/17/2022, 2 staff cases
25. St Andrews Village-LTC (02O244): March 2022, Healthcare, Skilled Nursing, Adams County, 3/22/2022, 2 resident cases
26. St. Mary's Medical Center, Healthcare, Acute Care Hospital, Mesa County, 3/29/2022, 34 staff cases
27. Suites at Clermont Park Care Center (020454): March 2022, Healthcare, Skilled Nursing, Denver County, 3/15/2022, 1 resident case, 2 staff cases
28. Summit Middle Charter School: January 2022, School, K-12, Boulder County, 3/17/2022, 2 staff cases, 20 attendee cases
29. Swigert International School: January 2022, School, K-12, Denver County, 1/21/2022, 2 staff cases, 14 attendee cases
30. The Center at Northridge (02I148): March 2022, Healthcare, Skilled Nursing, Adams County, 3/29/2022, 1 resident case, 1 staff case
31. University of Denver — Daniels College of Business, College/University, Denver County, 3/18/2022, 10 resident cases
32. Villagio of Broomfield (23Z321): March 2022, Healthcare, Assisted Living, Jefferson County, 3/18/2022, 4 staff cases
33. Whittier Elementary School, School, K-12, Boulder County, 1/10/2022, 9 staff cases, 23 attendee 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