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Vermont daily infection count breaks 2K mark; hospitals brace for rough ride

Published: Jan. 6, 2022 at 12:03 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont COVID rates continued to explode Thursday with state health officials reporting a one-day count of 2,188 cases, another record.

There are 91 people hospitalized with 17 in the ICU. The death toll remained level at 482.

As high infection rates stretch Vermont hospitals to the limit, officials we spoke to say they are again buckling down for a rough ride. “I think the next few weeks are going to be challenging it’s not only our patients that are coming in with covid and requiring a very high level of care but it’s also our staff who have been affected,” said Pamela Duchene, the chief nursing officer at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington.

She says they currently have seven COVID-positive patients, with four in the ICU. SVMC has been helped by FEMA workers who have come in over the last couple of weeks to bolster staffing. “It’s a very different type of situation -- the level of acuity here -- as well as our average daily census has significantly increased, not necessarily because of COVID but in addition to COVID,” Duchene said.

COVID patients are not yet overwhelming the supply of beds or staffing, but hospitals don’t know when the current surge will peak. At Gifford Medical Center in Randolph, chief medical officer Joshua White says he’s preparing for a very difficult week ahead but hopes that omicron is less severe and will subside quickly. “We’re not really seeing a crunch here yet, but again, going back to the small hospital the small numbers, all it would take -- three or four patients to change all of that,” he said.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center officials say they are also struggling to deal with the influx of COVID patients, the vast majority of them unvaccinated. The hospital posted a video update this week offering the perspective of doctors and a patient.

People we spoke to in Burlington say they are doing their best to ride out the surge. “I personally -- as a student -- it doesn’t concern me as much knowing people are wearing their masks indoors. It definitely makes me more comfortable to know people are following the rules, especially in Vermont,” said Roman Berger.

“I’m more concerned at the lack of people still unvaccinated and people not getting their boosters. I think that’s something that we can draw our attention to now with the rise in cases,” said Lilly Devitt of Burlington.

“We’ve been pretty good about wearing our masks and washing our hands and doing the things that have kept us from not being sick,” said Marnie Walden of Burlington.

As the surge continues to worsen Burlington city government is also adapting. They are now holding their public meetings remotely for the time being and encouraging employees to work from home. All staff is also required to wear a mask if in the room with another employee regardless of vaccination status.

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