Hospitals to keep following CDC guidelines despite end of Vt. COVID restrictions

Updated: Jun. 14, 2021 at 5:44 PM EDT
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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) - Now that Vermont has reached its goal of vaccinating 80% of the eligible population and Gov. Phil Scott has lifted state pandemic restrictions, what will that mean for hospital visitation policies?

Hospital officials we spoke with say their plans are to continue following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, regardless of Vermont’s new rules and the vaccination status of visitors.

“Our regulations are somewhat different than the rest of the community,” said Dr. Rick Hildebrant, the medical director and chief medical information officer at the Rutland Regional Medical Center.

Hildebrant says even though the governor has lifted all restrictions for Vermonters, health care facilities still follow the CDC guidelines.

“One of the key things that everyone would notice is we are required to wear masks while we are in the building, as are all of our patients and all of our visitors,” Hildebrant said.

This is not just a rule at RRMC.

The UVM Health Network tells us it will share new guidelines soon and looks forward to bringing loved ones back into hospital rooms.., “but because some Vermonters are still unable to be vaccinated, and the most vulnerable come to us for their care, we will continue to require patients, visitors and staff at our facilities to wear masks for the foreseeable future.”

Since late April, CDC guidelines require all visitors to be screened for symptoms, stay physically distant from others and wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status. Facilities may also limit the number of visitors for each patient. And they can give priority to visitors providing a patient physical or emotional care.

But RRMC is loosening some of its restrictions when it comes to screening people when they come to visit.

“We would do a symptom screen, a few months ago we were doing temperature screens, which we are not doing any longer, but we were also asking vaccination status and that is no longer part of the equation around visitation,” Hildebrant said.

The CDC also says facilities should promote and provide vaccinations for all health care personnel.

Devon Green with the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems says requiring medical personnel to get the vaccine is hot topic right now, but so far that’s not happening in Vermont.

“Hopefully, we won’t have to mandate anyone getting the vaccine, but our hospitals will always do what is safest for their patients,” Green said.

Hildebrant says about 90% of RRMC’s employees are vaccinated.

But since nationwide there are positive cases and millions who are unvaccinated, Hildebrant expects the CDC’s requirements will not be lifted soon.

“My best guess is that they are going to stay in place through to the fall and we’ll see what happens,” he said.

Rutland Regional Medical Center’s guidelines go into effect Wednesday, giving them time to update their policies and website.

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