For the first time in two years, staff at the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless can feel themselves letting out a breath as the weight of the coronavirus pandemic seems to be lifting off their shoulders.
Staff members “take a great deal of pride in the fact that our organization never closed its doors,” said Spencer Downing, interim executive director for the shelter. “At the same time, they are so relieved that there is an end in sight and there hasn’t been for two years.”
According to COVID-19 outbreak data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the shelter’s months-long outbreak was resolved March 12. The outbreak was first determined in September and had seen a total of 88 resident cases and 10 staff cases when it was resolved.
The state releases outbreak data every Wednesday. The state defines a COVID-19 outbreak for jails or shelters as two or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 among residents or staff in a facility within a 14-day period or one confirmed case and two or more probable cases of COVID-19 among residents or staff in a facility within a 14-day period.
Downing said the shelter met Thursday with officials from Boulder County Public Health who gave the facility the go-ahead to peel back COVID-19 restrictions.
The shelter will soon return to its full capacity of 160 beds per night, Downing said. The dining room will also return to full capacity for the first time in two years.
“Each table, which normally would hold four people (before the pandemic), (instead) would hold two, which were separated by plexiglass, and we asked people to eat as quickly as possible,” he said.
On severely cold nights or critically cold nights, the shelter expanded its services to host a maximum of 186 clients. The city paid for about 40 people experiencing homelessness to stay at hotels.
“There were a couple of nights where city staff were handing out meals,” Downing said. “It’s not just one organization doing this. It’s a team effort.”
Downing said shelter staff will continue to wear masks when clients are in the building and weekly, optional COVID-19 tests will still be provided.
Although the COVID-19 outbreak at the Boulder County Jail has not been resolved by the state, it has been weeks since an inmate or staff member tested positive for COVID-19, said Melanie Judson, health services administrator with the jail.
One inmate and one staff member were confirmed as positive for COVID-19 on Feb. 25. No new cases have been reported since.
The jail’s outbreak was first determined Aug. 31 with two inmate cases, although officials with the jail said there were four cases at the time. It now involves 240 inmate cases and 39 staff cases, according to CDPHE’s most recent data.
Judson was unable to confirm if the jail recorded the same total number of cases as the state since August, due to an error in reporting from a health care provider with which it partnered.
In January, the jail asked CDPHE to test inmates and staff twice per week for COVID-19, Judson said. Health care company Nomi was in charge of administering the tests, but because of an error in the company’s system, the jail had to switch to using rapid tests.
“We did rapid testing for the majority of our tests over a four-week period,” Judson said. “All of those tests were reported directly to CDPHE by Nomi. I do not have access to those test results.”
Officials with the Colorado State Joint Information Center said there have been 143 inmate cases and seven staff cases since Jan. 1. Officials were unable to confirm prior to publication on Friday if there was an error in COVID-19 testing by Nomi.