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5 test positive at Burlington facility; victim's family dismayed by lack of precautions

(WCAX)
Published: Mar. 20, 2020 at 6:01 PM EDT
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We're learning more about one of Vermont's first victims of the coronavirus, an elderly woman at a Burlington long-term care facility where state officials now say four other residents have tested positive.

Betty Labombard was as healthy as a 95-year-old woman could be according to family members. They say she grew up in South Burlington, was married to the love of her life for 50 years, and was a longtime waitress at the Woolworths that used to be on Church Street. The family says they don't know how Labombard got the virus and believe The Burlington Health and Rehabilitation Center could be doing more to prevent its spread.

"I just don't think they're taking the precautions as serious, I really don't," said Holly Barrett-Willard, the last family member to visit her aunt Thursday morning. "She called everyday, spoke to everybody everyday. She was fine up until this."

Barrett-Willard said management gave her conflicting answers over who was testing positive for the coronavirus in the building. The family was told earlier this week Labombard was a little under the weather and that the positive case wasn't on her floor. Then they got a call she had a fever and was on oxygen. Then, on Thursday morning, they were told she might not make it. It was at that point that Barrett-Willard got the ok to visit her aunt. She was given a mask, gown, and gloves, but she others inside weren't doing the same.

"Some people had their masks down, patients were walking the halls, no masks, no gloves. Some nurses weren't even suited up at all that were walking around," Barrett-Willard said.

Labombard was already in a coma and Barrett-Willard says another woman staying in the same room as her aunt was wearing no protective equipment. "No mask, not even 5-feet away from her," she said.

She feels for other families who have loved ones that are still living there. "They can say all they want that they're taking all the precautions -- they're not. I saw it with my own eyes," Barrett-Willard said.

WCAX received a statement from the The Burlington Health and Rehabilitation Center that says it has implemented various containment protocols. They say the safety and well-being of their patients, residents and employees continues to be their number one priority.

Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine says there are at least five people, including Labombard, that have tested positive for COVID-19 at the center. He said he has reached out to the CDC to conduct a possible investigation over the spread.

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