DHMC confident no patients put at risk from virus-infected medical resident

Published: Mar. 6, 2020 at 4:55 PM EST
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Several people in the Upper Valley connected to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and the college are still being monitored for the coronavirus after two hospital employees recently tested positive.

The Dartmouth College campus is a little quieter than usual with the last day of classes at the Tuck Business School canceled. Final exams there for the term will be held online.

It all stems from a party a week ago at the Engine Room in White River Junction that was hosted by Tuck students. One of the partygoers turned out to be infected with the coronavirus. He had been told to self-quarantine after showing symptoms for the virus, while tests were conducted, but he did not comply.

"It is definitely scary. I eat lunch in Byrne every day and today it was deserted. Tuck classes are canceled. We had final presentations in Tuck that had to be moved, so it is definitely affecting everyone," said Rose Gold, a Dartmouth grad student.

Health officials say the 2nd confirmed case, who is also a DHMC employee, had close contact with the 1st. Because of that 2nd case, four other Geisel School of Medicine students are also being monitored for the virus.

And now WCAX has learned that the first individual who tested positive sees patients at the medical center. According to Vermont health officials, he is a physician trainee, commonly known as a resident.

Hospital officials are offering no information about either person's employment other than this statement: "Our hospital privacy policy to protect our patients and employees still remain and consistent with federal and state privacy laws. We will not disclose any personally identifying information about any of our patients."

Dr. Joanne Conroy, DHMC's CEO and chief clinical officer, hosted a question and answer session online Friday and was asked about protocols for staff who may be exposed.

Dr. Joanne Conroy: What do we do if a provider is exposed to protect them and to minimize transmission?

Dr. Ed Merrens, Chief Clinical Officer: So, first of all no providers should be exposed and what we feel really good about, even in our first case, when this person presented, they were queried with the same questions that we ask everybody. Have you traveled? Do you have symptoms? That we have been doing, not just in this outbreak. They were immediately identified, they were immediately given a mask.

State health officials set up a mobile testing site at the Lebanon Airport Thursday. A command center that helps coordinate the response from 12 Upper Valley communities is also active at the Lebanon Fire Station in case there is an outbreak.

"The town of Hanover in particular, you know, working together to coordinate information -- it's a joint information center. And also to coordinate logistics and the requests for logistical support from the state of New Hampshire," said Lebanon City Manager Shaun Mulholland.

Hospital officials say they are confident no DHMC patients are at risk and they say it is business as usual at the medical center.

Meanwhile, Vermont health officials say they have now tracked down everyone they wanted to who was at the Engine Room last Friday night.

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