Vermont Coronavirus Updates For Monday, March 9
VPR reporters provide a quick round-up of local coronavirus news for Monday, March 9.
Southwestern Vermont Medical Center releases more information about first case, implements drive-thru testing
Southwestern Vermont Medical Center is releasing more information about the patient being treated at the Bennington hospital for a COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
Chief Medical Officer Trey Dobson told Vermont Edition the state's first officially diagnosed coronavirus patient is an older man who lives in Bennington County. He presented to the emergency department with a fever and cough.
“As far as his current condition, I can tell you it's stable, which means that he's had some periods where he got worse, and some periods where he got better," Dobson said. "But the last check on him, he remains stable, which is a good thing. It means that his likelihood of improving is there.”
Dobson said he was not aware of any people who had been in contact with the patient who are in treatment for COVID-19 symptoms. However, the state is monitoring people who have been in contact with this individual, and is still contacting others who may need to be checked.
In the meantime, SVMC has implemented new testing protocols that allow patients to get drive-up service.
Dobson said the hospital put its drive-up testing protocol into service over the weekend, after the Bennington County patient tested positive for COVID-19.
He said the process helps prevent unnecessary exposure for both patients and providers. The drive-up testing applies to patients referred by their provider and the Vermont Department of Health for testing, but who are not sick enough to need to be examined and treated at the emergency department.
“The patient can then come to outside of our emergency department, remain in their car,” Dobson said. “A staff member will go out there, they will take a nasal swab and an oral swab, and the patient will then be on their way to self-quarantine at home until the results of that test come back, 72 hours at the latest but generally within 48 hours.”
Dobson said SVMC and other Vermont hospitals are working on identifying dedicated personnel for this service to handle the testing as the volume of patients increases.
- Jane Lindholm
White River Junction VA Hospital to start screening
The White River Junction VA hospital is limiting access and implementing screening starting Tuesday in response to COVID-19.
Veterans and visitors will only be able to enter through the main entrance, and the hospital is urging patients to limit visitors and keep children away.
Veterans who believe they have symptoms are asked to contact the facility remotely before coming in. Some patients may be treated with virtual care.
- Mark Davis
Gov. Phil Scott not changing public schedule for the coronavirus
Gov. Phil Scott is not making any changes to his public schedule this week in response to the new coronavirus.
Rebecca Kelley is the governor's Communications Director, and she said Scott, who is 61, and all administration staff people are closely following the key recommendations from the Vermont Health Department: To frequently wash hands, to cough or sneeze into one's elbow, and to stay home if they develop a fever and/or a cough.
“The governor always likes to travel and meet with Vermonters,” Kelley said. “We haven't made any changes to his previously-planned schedule at this point because of those concerns. It's really just about practicing all of the guidance the Department of Health is giving out for folks."
Most of Scott's public activities this week involve events around the Statehouse.
- Bob Kinzel
Vermont churches take coronavirus precautions
Vermont churches are dealing with concerns about the coronavirus.
Gregory Ellis, of Grace Congregational Church in Rutland, estimates their attendance is down about 10 to 15%, and they now encourage elbow bumps instead of shaking hands during services.
The Vermont Roman Catholic Diocese recommends its parishioners avoid physical contact in church.
Monsignor Bernard Bourgeois, who presides over Catholic churches in Rutland and Wallingford, said the hardest part is greeting parishioners after Mass.
"I’ve been putting my hands in my pockets so as not to confuse anybody, and some people say, ‘Oh, yeah, sorry about that Father,’ or that kind of thing,” Bourgeois said. “But it’s just kind of a cultural thing for us to do that: You walk up to someone and you shake their hand. We’re not doing it, and it’s causing a little confusion, but mostli people are fine, they can see the wisdom of the bigger picture."
Bourgeois said the diocese has also temporarily suspended taking communion from the cup, and he will likely pull the holy water that people dip their hands into. He added people are still receiving individual communion wafers – even on their tongue if they ask for it. But that may change.
- Nina Keck
New Hampshire eyes the new coronavirus, how it might impact tomorrow's Town Meetings
Lebanon is home to the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, employer of the state's first two positive cases of COVID-19.
And with the illness confirmed in the area, Lebanon’s City Clerk Sandy Allard said they’re taking extra precautions with Tuesday’s municipal elections.
“Hand sanitizers, Lysol wipes, masks and gloves, both for voters and for elections officials working at the polls on election day,” Allard said. “Even simple things like when voters show their photo ID, we're going to instruct our election officials not to actually take the photo ID from them, but just to look at it.”
Towns across New Hampshire are holding Town Meeting tomorrow.
- Betty Smith