More than 20 positive COVID tests were recorded in the last two weeks among staff and clients at Advantage Treatment Center, making the local community corrections facility an outbreak site, according to state criteria.

The facility is following all protocols and working closely with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, as well as Montrose County Health to address the outbreak, Advantage Treatment Center Vice President Josh Mayhugh said Monday, Sept. 20.

“We did a whole round of testing today. Those go to the state lab and will be back within a day. We’re utilizing rapid tests for quicker response,” Mayhugh said.

The hope is to be deemed COVID-free at the building within a week to 10 days and to have the outbreak status moved into the “resolved” category after that — requiring 14 days of no new positive tests following the completion of isolation periods. That can take three to four weeks, Mayhugh said.

“We’re an outbreak site until the CDPHE says we’re not,” he said.

Mayhugh said it is impossible to tell how COVID came into the facility. “It is hard to find Patient Zero. It’s a pandemic. That’s the nature of it. It’s sort of everywhere at times,” he said.

As of last report, none of those with COVID have required critical care, he said. So far, people at the commcorr are either asymptomatic or have experienced mild symptoms.

Community corrections is a sentencing option for certain offenders, usually as part of probation, or in lieu of prison. If they are approved by the commcorr board, defendants may be sentenced to the facility, where they receive ordered treatment and can work in the community.

ATC’s center has about 67 clients on the roster currently. Those who are ill are being kept separate from those who are not.

“We’ve moved around and cordoned off dorms to allow them to remain separate. There are multiple dorm rooms. We separate by test status or symptomatic. Also, we have been able to furlough a few people,” Mayhugh said.

Those who test positive are not being allowed to freely mingle in the day room. Their food and medication is brought to them in isolation. “We try to make sure they don’t cross paths (with healthy clients). We try to keep the two populations separate,” Mayhugh said.

He said CDPHE allowed the commcorr site to use rapid testing to allow clients who are essential workers to go to their jobs, provided they have a negative test.

Inside the facility, mask-use is required of both clients and staff.

ATC established a vaccine incentive program about six months ago; Mayhugh said some have taken advantage of it, but not everyone did. He estimates that the in-house vaccination rate is similar to that of the community at large.

ATC does not at this time mandate its staffers to receive a COVID vaccine, Mayhugh said.

Although the state mandates state prison workers to be vaccinated, that mandate does not apply to commcorr employees because community corrections are not considered state facilities, he also said.

The community corrections building is closed to public visitation. Clients ordinarily receive substance abuse and other treatments at a location off site, however, that building serves the entire community with outpatient care.

For now, commcorr clients will receive such services in-house, or via telehealth, as appropriate. Mayhugh said ATC wants to be sure to keep the off-site location available to other community members.

At its facility, ATC is performing all required cleaning with a federally regulated anti-viral cleaning agent and all other necessary sanitation. It has acquired additional personal protective equipment and similar supplies.

The additional supplies come at additional cost and there could be more costs related to staffing if ATC has to rotate in employees from its other facilities as Montrose workers isolate.

State and local health officials, along with facility staff, have helped immensely in the response, Mayhugh indicated.

“We’re doing everything required. They’ve been very supportive. We’re lucky we have a bunch of people who are rolling up their sleeves,” he said.

Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer.

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Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.