Resident at Vt. senior living home diagnosed with COVID-19

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) A Burlington senior care facility has confirmed one of its residents tested positive for the coronavirus. Our Dom Amato spoke with a spokesperson for the facility and the state's health commissioner about what that means and how we can help Vermont's most vulnerable residents.

The Burlington Health and Rehabilitation Center on Pearl Street says they have made a number of changes to protect their residents. One man who says his mother lives here told WCAX News she is terrified of the employees who are in gowns and masks. And now that visitors are restricted from entering, it's leaving dozens without the comfort and normalcy of family interaction.

"The biggest thing is to keep them calm, to keep their anxiety under control," said Christine Legler of Milton.

Legler is one of 74,000 caregivers in Vermont. She takes of her elderly parents at home, but for many families, loved ones receive care in a facility. One downfall of living in a shared space is the spread of disease could be rapid.

"All nursing homes, of course, are petrified in the wintertime of infectious disease that can take hold there," Vt. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said.

After screening residents for coronavirus symptoms at the Burlington Health and Rehab Center, one person was sent to the hospital with a confirmed case. Now, the facility is taking additional measures to protect others. That includes screening residents twice a day, removing employees who had contact with the infected patient and restricting all visitor access.

"So, they've been cut off with the sort of family connection they rely so heavily on," said Bill Walsh of the AARP.

Walsh says residents in senior care facilities may be feeling more isolated than ever with the unknown of the virus and limited family contact. He's urging families to keep a line of communication open and to make sure their loved ones are getting the care and information they need.

Legler says a family's outlook can play a big factor in how nervous their loved ones may be.

"The biggest thing to help everyone is to keep a positive attitude," Legler said.

Levine says this facility and others across Vermont have effective infection control programs in place to slow the spread of any virus.

A spokesperson for Burlington Health and Rehab says they will remain in close contact with families and residents in the coming weeks in light of the positive case there.