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Colorado to assume control of COVID-19 outbreak investigations in residential care facilities

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Robert Davis | The Center Square contributor

(The Center Square) – Colorado's public health agency will head investigations into COVID-19 outbreaks at residential care facilities, the agency said Thursday.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) said the shift, which is expected to be complete by April 2022, will free up time for local public health agencies to respond to outbreaks elsewhere in their communities. 

Under the current system, local public health authorities are responsible for investigating outbreaks at residential care facilities while CDPHE provides technical support and consultation.

“We are committed to doing all we can to help their continued efforts, and to protecting our state’s residents who are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19,” state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said in a statement. “We are confident this transition will streamline our statewide response.”

CDPHE said the new centralized alignment will standardize the state’s outbreak response efforts and help facilitate the rapid deployment of resources like rapid response teams, staffing resources, and monoclonal antibody distribution treatments.

The agency added that it has scaled up its infection prevention, epidemiology, and data analyst staffing to accommodate the new protocols for residential care facilities. Staffing levels will be determined on an as-needed basis, CDPHE said.

The move comes after an investigation by 9News in May found that more than 100 residential care facilities in Colorado were fined for having poor infection control standards in place.

But those same facilities still qualified for bonus payments from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services because of their infection rates, according to 9News. In all, the investigation found the bonuses paid to the facilities were $10.3 million more than the fines levied against the entities.

More than 1,100 Coloradans died from COVID-19 at the facilities, according to the report.