COVID Outbreak at Colorado Auto Dealership Causes 12 Infections With 3 Deaths

Health officials announced on Tuesday that a COVID-19 outbreak at a Nissan dealership in Durango, Colorado, is responsible for 12 infections that resulted in the deaths of three people.

A fourth person who was believed to have contracted COVID from the dealership also died but did not meet the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's (CDPHE) case definition to be added to the outbreak fatality list.

A local heath department announced on Tuesday an outbreak at a Nissan dealership in Colorado earlier this summer resulted in three deaths. In this photo, Nissan cars are displayed at a dealership on July 25, 2019 in New York City. Getty

San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) reported that the first case in the outbreak was identified June 19. After that initial case, 11 other individuals have been detected.

Five of those linked to the outbreak have been confirmed by CDPHE full-genome sequencing as cases of the Delta variant. Two of the outbreak's cases were also confirmed on August 9 as being "breakthrough" cases of COVID-19 infections among fully vaccinated individuals.

The health status and possible hospitalizations of the other individuals involved with the dealership outbreak was not made clear in the SJBPH's announcement.

The agency stated in a press release that it and Nissan of Durango have "implemented mitigation response plans for the business, including testing and contact tracing. All positive cases associated with Nissan of Durango have been put on isolation and those identified as unvaccinated close contacts were put on quarantine."

The outbreak at the car dealership followed another recent investigation by SJBPH into an outbreak in the area involving 10 employees at a Walmart in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Like the investigation into the Nissan site, cases of the Delta variant were found in the store's outbreak.

According to the SJBPH's press release, the health agency's investigations into both of those sites "suggested that the lack of public health precautions within the workplace, especially regarding unvaccinated staff, contributed to the elevated number of cases."

Along with becoming becoming fully vaccinated, the SJBPH urged people to take extra protection against the Delta variant by wearing masks and social distancing in public indoor settings.

"The recent COVID-19 fatalities are a tragic loss for our community and a reminder that the pandemic is not over," said Liane Jollon, Executive Director of SJBPH said in a statement.

"We're very grateful for the cooperation of Nissan of Durango in response to this outbreak and to every business still working to keep our communities safe. We are heartbroken to report the recent COVID-19 related deaths," Jollon added. "We urge everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible and follow SJBPH's public health advisory by continuing to wear masks in public indoor settings like the grocery store and other businesses."

Rob Celedonia, co-owner of the dealership, spoke with the Durango Herald about the recent SJBPH announcement. He told the paper he is confused about why the update was released now when the outbreak occurred earlier in the summer.

"I have no idea who they're talking about," Celedonia said to the Herald. "There is no one here who is sick."

Newsweek contacted Nissan of Durango and the SJBPH for further comment but did not hear back in time for publication.