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Growing concerns about outbreaks at long-term care facilities

Vermonters urged to quarantine if they attended Thanksgiving gatherings
Published: Nov. 27, 2020 at 6:23 AM EST|Updated: Nov. 27, 2020 at 5:19 PM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Three more Vermonters have died from COVID-19. They were 76, 81 and 94 years old. That brings the death toll to 67 in Vermont.

Ninety-nine new cases of the coronavirus were confirmed. That pushes Vermont over the 4,000 mark. We have now seen 4,005 cases since the pandemic began.

One of the new deaths reported Friday was inside a long-term care facility. State Health Officials did not tell us which one, but did say they have identified cases among 14 residents and two staff members at Elderwood Care in Burlington, which joins a growing list of facilities seeing outbreaks.

State leaders are worried about the growing number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities since older Vermonters are more vulnerable to the virus. The state is ramping up testing and is restricting visitation in an effort to keep residents safe.

The outbreak at Elderwood is just one of several the state is tracking.

“The health department and I are becoming more and more concerned about the increasing number of cases that we’re seeing in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities,” Vt. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said.

Those facilities, which house vulnerable Vermonters, have been a point of concern for the health department since the start of the pandemic.

Levine says when staffers test positive and have to quarantine, it exacerbates a national shortage of workers.

The state is ramping up surveillance testing and restricting visitation.

“There’s a prevalence of the virus in our communities and people, no matter where they go to work, will go to work feeling fine not realizing they’re capable of transmitting the virus to others,” Levine said.

EXPOSURE AT VT. STATE POLICE BARRACKS

In St. Albans, state police are bringing in more help after a trooper tested positive and potentially exposed 15 staff members, forcing them to isolate.

Test results will come back in a few days.

That trooper potentially exposed one person during an interview.

CHECKING THAT BUSINESSES FOLLOW THE RULES

An update on the state’s safety compliance checks. Police checked more than 1,200 businesses for health violations.

Authorities will now only check in with businesses when tipped off, instead of checking in unprompted.

VERMONTERS WHO ATTENDED GATHERINGS URGED TO QUARANTINE

Following pushback on a plan letting schools ask kids if they attended a large Thanksgiving gathering, the governor is defending his policy.

“You can chalk that up to hitting a nerve, whether it’s a guilt nerve or a resistance nerve. But the intent was really to protect Vermonters,” said Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont.

But the governor says some may have misunderstood his directive, thinking it would lead to students being interrogated at the school entrance. Many district’s health checks are administered by parents through an online portal, very few are actually teachers asking kids in person. And under the policy, districts don’t have to ask.

Regardless of the question on the health checks, he says if you and your kids attended a Thanksgiving gathering with others outside of your household, you and your kids should quarantine and get tested.

THE NUMBERS

There were no new numbers reported on Thanksgiving because of the holiday. Here are the numbers the state released on Friday.

Three more Vermonters have died from COVID-19, one at home, one at the hospital and one in a long-term care facility. That brings the death toll to 67 in Vermont.

Another 99 new COVID cases were confirmed on Thursday. That pushes Vermont over the 4,000 mark. We’ve now seen 4,005 since the pandemic began.

It took 88 days to get to 1,000 cases in the spring. We slowed over the summer, taking 142 days to reach 2,000 cases. Then the fall surge hit and we jumped to 3,000 cases in just 23 days. The jump to 4,000 took just 12 days.

As of Friday, 16 people are hospitalized, two in the ICU, none on ventilators.

SCHOOL SURVEILLANCE TESTING

The first round of surveillance testing is done at Vermont schools. Out of nearly 9,400 teachers and staffers tested, 21 tests came back positive for COVID-19. Another round will take place next month, 25% of the districts each week starting next week.

And the education secretary says after the holidays, their department will figure out what to do about standardized testing for students to measure education progress, saying their decision will be heavily influenced by what the federal government does.

MANDATORY VACCINATIONS?

The governor says it too early to talk about mandatory vaccinations in Vermont.

Levine says if 70% of the population got the shot, it would create herd immunity to help contain the virus. He says a survey of hospitals in Vermont shows that about half of workers would get it without knowing much about it.

VERMONT LIGHTS THE WAY

The governor discussed how Vermont has led the way on many things in the nation, like civil rights. He says Vermont needs to be the example in stopping the spread, too.

He launched “Vermont Lights the Way,” asking Vermonters to decorate their homes to lift peoples’ spirits. He asked Vermonters to post photos on social media using the hashtag #VTLightsTheWay.

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