Batch of UVM Health Network positive COVID tests not reported to Vt. health officials

Published: Dec. 3, 2020 at 4:52 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A delay in the reporting of a batch of positive COVID test results has left state contact tracers scrambling and may be contributing to further virus community spread. Officials say the lapse is another result of the UVM Medical Center cyberattack that continues to impact patient care.

Between November 22nd and 29th, 50 positive lab results processed through the UVM Health Network went unreported to the state. While patients and providers were notified, the automatic system which reports cases to the state, was knocked offline by October’s cyberattack

“The second thing we’re supposed to do is contact the health department so they can have the numbers in their daily counts and initiate their contact tracing. That’s where the breakdown happened,” said UVM Medical Center’s Dr. Steven Leffler.

The 50 positive tests were from communities across Vermont. The delay means contact tracers were only reaching out to those people for the first time on Thursday, leaving potentially infected individuals in the dark over the past week. Health officials caution that it’s too early to know if this contributed to community spread. “It was an oversight on our part, for sure. It’s not our responsibility to do the reporting, but it is our responsibility to follow up. We should have noticed it sooner but we didn’t,” said Vt. epidemiologist Patsy Kelso.

Until the health network can fix the automatic reporting, they are manually sending positive test information to the state by FAX. The incident is just the latest example of how the cyberattack has impacted patient care. “We’re extremely sorry to our patients to any impact this has had on them. Our staff has been working around the clock for more than a month now to do everything in our power to make our impact as small as possible. We know some of our patients were impacted more than others. We are doing our best to make it right,” Leffler said.

Most of the network’s systems are back online, but they’re still having issues around radiology and connections to other organizations including the health department.

When asked again about whether the network received a ransom request as a result of the hack, Leffler said the FBI has asked him not to comment on the issue.

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