COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) - A Colorado public health order requires expanded COVID-19 testing at long-term care facilities starting Friday.
The changes come as over 100 state nursing homes and assisted living facilities are reporting coronavirus outbreaks.
According to the new health order, nursing homes and assisted living facilities must implement ongoing surveillance tests and outbreak testing for all staff and residents.
The public health order requires long-term care facilities to use polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.
The protocols are aimed at catching coronavirus spread early to protect our loved ones during the pandemic, according to Kristi Durbin with the El Paso County Public Health Department.
"Although our residents are usually that older generation and they're vulnerable, but they're cared for by our younger generation usually," Durbin said.
The surveillance testing will be required at least once a week based on a county's coronavirus positivity rate. If a resident leaves the facility, they'll also be required to get tested.
"If a facility has cases of COVID, they are required to test. And based on our positivity rate in El Paso County, that would be twice a week testing," Durbin explained.
County health officials say in some long-term care facilities it's taken longer to identify positive cases because of delayed test results.
"Unfortunately we are seeing a lag is test results, which doesn't give us the information to inform our decisions about cohosting and moving residents within the facility. Quarantining, isolating that's all informed by testing. So this new testing platform will hopefully get us results faster," Durbin said.
Doug Farmer, President of the Colorado Health Care Association, is hopeful the expansion of testing and lab access will help them prevent additional COVID-19 deaths in Colorado's most vulnerable population.
"When you look at nursing homes in Colorado, the average age is 85, and everyone in a nursing home by nature of the fact that they are there has underlying health conditions," Farmer said.
Farmer is urging Coloradans to follow federal and state health guidelines because not doing so can put long-term care staff and residents in danger.
"The correlation between community spread and spread into these care settings is direct. So, if we can get the general community to go down, then that limits the exposure that these vulnerable residents have," Farmer said.